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Didn’t get a flu shot? Get one now.
January 9, 2019

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Last year, we opened 2018 urging those who had not yet received a flu shot to get one.

This year, for much the same reason, we are repeating that advice.

Lee County has again experienced a sharp increase in flu cases in December with Lee Health reporting a jump from fewer than 90 cases during the week of Dec. 8 to more than 310 the week of Dec. 23.

While, as of press time, the health care system had not again restricted children 12 and younger from visiting patients in high-risk units such as pediatric intensive care and hematology/oncology, Lee Health is asking that children not visit hospitalized patients while flu is prevalent, and that anyone with flu symptoms not visit as well.

And if you think you have the flu?

Lee Health advises you to seek medical care by visiting your primary care doctor, a Lee Health Convenient Care, walk-in or an urgent care center where they can diagnose and treat the illness.

Lee Health also has some prevention advice with getting the flu vaccine, as well as the pneumococcal vaccine, topping its list.

We agree, getting a flu shot makes sense.

For almost everyone. The CDC recommends flu shots for anyone 6 months and older.

While Florida is not yet among the nine states the U.S. Center for Disease Control now reports with a "high-concern" level of flu and flu-like activity, this year's flu strains have resulted in an anomaly in hospitalizations: The highest hospitalization rate is among children younger than 5.

Typically, it's adults 65 years and older.

While officials say the national hospitalization "ranking" for children is not overly concerning - it's older and younger, in that order, who are most at risk of flu-related complications - there have been 11 pediatric deaths to date, eight of them in December.

For too many, it's more than the unpleasantness of fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. On average, 36,000 people die from the virus or related complications each flu season.

The best time to get one is at the start of the flu season, around October, as peak season typically runs December through March and it takes two weeks for the inoculation to produce antibodies and so become effective.

But it's not too late to get one now.

If fact, with flu still reported as "minimal" in Florida, it's still a good time to protect yourself and your family ahead of what may be yet to come in February, the worse month for the airborne and contact illness.

The Florida Department of Health provides free shots for children in Lee County. Free flu vaccines for children 6 months old through 18 years are available at the department's Immunization Clinic, 3920 Michigan Ave., Fort Myers.

Clinic hours are 8 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 1 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. Friday.

Flu vaccine for adults 19 years and older is $30, with High-Dose flu vaccine for adults 65 years and older $50.

Appointments are required and may be made by calling 239-461-6100.

Local health care providers and pharmacies all over Lee County also provide flu shots.

Visit floridahealth.gov/programs-and-services /prevention/flu-prevention/locate-a-flu-shot.html for additional guidance as to location.

- Observer editorial

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