The 2017-18 flu season was one of the widest and longest outbreaks of the virus since the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta began keeping formal records.
It also, sadly, was one of the most dangerous and deadly in Georgia: In the state, there were record-breaking hospitalizations for the flu. The death toll of 145 people in Georgia included four children ages 5-17; 15 were ages 18-51; 25 were ages 51-64; and 101 were people 65 and over. By comparison, there were only nine flu-related deaths in the state for the 2016-17 flu season.
Len McCook and his wife Janie McCook, who own McCook’s Pharmacy on Highway 80 East, hope the past flu season will motivate more local residents than ever to be vaccinated against the flu.
“Last year’s flu season just seemed to keep going on and on,” Len McCook said. “We gave more flu shots and filled more prescriptions than any year since we opened in 2005. No other year was even close to last year.”
There is no “official” start to flu season, but, typically, flu activity begins to increase in October, according to the CDC. So, getting a flu shot now makes the most sense, Len McCook said.
And flu vaccines are in plentiful supply and are available at McCook’s.
“A flu vaccine is not a guarantee you won’t get the flu,” he said. “But it absolutely gives you the best chance of avoiding coming down with the flu.”
McCook recommends everyone should get a flu vaccine, but like the CDC, said it is most important for children under 5, especially those under 2, and adults over 65.
One of the longest-standing myths about the vaccine, McCook said, is that it gives some people the flu.
The flu vaccine does not give anyone the flu,” he said. “The vaccine is derived from an inactive virus and is in no way infectious.”
The most common side effects from an influenza shot are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling where the shot was given.
But McCook and the CDC say that the chance of a very small reaction to a shot is well worth it. A CDC study found the flu vaccine prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year. During 2016-2017, flu vaccinations prevented an estimated 5.3 million influenza illnesses, 2.6 million influenza-associated medical visits, and 85,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations.
Among the tragic deaths attributed to the flu of 180 children in the United States during the 2017-18 season, the CDC found 80 percent did not receive a vaccine.
And as the flu season gets underway, Janie McCook recommends two simple precautions everyone can take to lessen their chances of catching the flu.
“Wash your hands several times a day, especially after contact with anyone, and, if possible, avoid large crowds in enclosed spaces,” she said.
But, most importantly, get a vaccine.
“If you need a flu shot, come see us,” Len McCook said. “But flu season is about to really get started and we hope we don’t see a repeat of what happened last season. So, even if you don’t receive the vaccine from us, get a shot this season.”
This article is sponsored by McCook’s Pharmacy, which is located on Highway 80 East, across from Fordham’s Farmhouse restaurant. You can reach McCook’s by calling (912) 764-2223 or their website www.mccookspharmacy.com.