Flu season nears in Clark County

Legacy Salmon Creek gives employees shots, prepares for wider immunization

By Marissa Harshman, Columbian Health Reporter

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Lindsey Wreden stocked her supply cart with vaccine vials, turned on her blinking “Flu Kicker” pin and set out to find the stragglers at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center who hadn’t received this year’s flu shot.

The registered nurse has for weeks spent hours pushing a cart around the hospital, vaccinating employees and volunteers against the seasonal flu. Some people tell her to find them “next time.” Others turn down nearby hallways when they see her coming. Despite those flu-shot dodgers, most hospital staffers have already armed themselves for the flu season, Wreden said.

Later this month, the hospital will begin efforts to immunize community members and hospital visitors — and just in time for flu season to pick up, if past years are any indication.

The flu started circulating in Clark County a little earlier than usual last year, with activity picking up at the end of October. Typically, though, Clark County Public Health begins seeing more cases of seasonal influenza in early- to mid-December, with activity continuing for about three months.

The uncertainty of when the flu will strike has local health officials encouraging everyone 6 months and older to get vaccinated now.

“Some people delay getting a flu shot in the mistaken belief that vaccine effectiveness will wear off before winter, when flu season typically intensifies,” said Dr. Alan Melnick, Clark County health officer, in a news release. “You are actually better off getting the vaccine as soon as it’s available because flu season starts early some years.”

In addition, Melnick said, it can take up to two weeks for immunization protection to kick in.

“The sooner you’re vaccinated, the sooner you’re protected — and you’ll stay protected throughout the flu season,” he said.

Good match

Flu activity is currently low in Clark County and across the U.S., said Derel Glashower, epidemiologist with Clark County Public Health, during a Wednesday board of health meeting.

“The good news is, the virus that they’re seeing is one that’s included in the seasonal vaccine this year,” Glashower said. “So it suggests the vaccine may be a good match for circulating viruses this year.”

Traditional flu vaccines protect against three different strains of the flu: two influenza A viruses (an H1N1 and an H3N2) and an influenza B virus. Quadrivalent vaccines made to protect against four flu strains include a second influenza B virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is once again recommending that the popular nasal spray influenza vaccine not be used this year as its effectiveness remains unclear.

The flu vaccine is widely available in Clark County. Health officials recommend those needing a flu shot call their health care provider or pharmacy.