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Health Alert: National Influenza Immunization Awareness Week; Vaccine Available at TCWH

(ITHACA, NY, December 05, 2023) – Tompkins County Whole Health (TCWH) is reminding the community of the importance of influenza (flu) vaccination during National Influenza Awareness Week. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. With cases of the flu being reported across New York State (NYS) and Tompkins County, now is the time to be vaccinated if you have not already done so.

In the 2022-2023 flu season alone, over 31 million Americans became sick with the flu, resulting in over 360,000 hospitalizations and over 21,000 deaths. In NYS, for this 2023-2024 flu season, over 14,000 cases have already been reported, with 995 hospitalizations to date.

Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly. People who are sick with flu often feel some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Fever and/or feeling feverish or having chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Боли в мышцах или теле
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

Sinus and ear infections are examples of moderate complications from flu, while pneumonia is a serious flu complication that can result from either flu virus infection alone or from co-infection of flu virus and bacteria. Other possible serious complications triggered by flu can include inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle tissues (myositis, rhabdomyolysis), and multi-organ failure (for example, respiratory and kidney failure). Flu virus infection of the respiratory tract can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to sepsis, the body’s life-threatening response to infection. Flu also can make chronic medical problems worse. For example, people with asthma may experience asthma attacks while they have flu, and people with chronic heart disease may experience a worsening of this condition triggered by flu. Should you become infected with the flu, antiviral treatments can be used to treat flu illness; those should be started as early as possible and are especially important for those at higher risk of severe illness.

Everyone ages 6 months and older should receive a flu vaccine annually. Those who are pregnant are encouraged to be vaccinated to provide their infant with protection against the flu virus. Older adults and those with chronic health conditions are particularly vulnerable to severe illness from the flu, including increased risk of hospitalization or death. Hi-dose or adjuvanted flu vaccine are recommended for those age 65 and older, as it has been shown to reduce hospitalization and death in that age group.

Tompkins County Whole Health Medical Director Dr. William Klepack stated, “Older adults, young children, pregnant women, nursing home residents, and people with asthma, lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, or obesity, are more likely to develop flu-related complications. Getting an annual flu shot and staying home while sick are important measures. Influenza is also spread by touching things, so washing your hands often, using disinfectant, and doing fist or elbow bumps instead of handshakes can help limit the spread. Cough or sneeze only into your sleeves or tissues, not onto your hands. Wearing a high-quality mask while in crowded public settings is also a helpful strategy for prevention of respiratory illnesses.”

Dr. Klepack continued, “Unvaccinated people risk preventable illness and hospitalization. There is still time to get vaccinated this flu season – if you have not yet done so, please seek vaccination now.”

To schedule an appointment to be vaccinated, call your primary care provider or schedule with a local pharmacy. You can also use the website www.vaccines.gov to find a location near you. If you need assistance in scheduling an appointment online, dial 2-1-1 to speak with the helpline. 

The flu vaccine, including the hi-dose flu vaccine, is also available at TCWH’s on-site immunization clinics for children and adults with or without health insurance. To schedule an appointment time, call TCWH Community Health Services at 607-274-6604.

Free high-quality KN95 face masks for youth and adults, and N95 face masks for adults are available for the public at our office location at 55 Brown Road, Ithaca. Our office hours are Monday-Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm.

Learn more about the flu online at: https://tompkinscountyny.gov/health/flu.

Tompkins County Whole Health (formerly the Tompkins County Health Department and Mental Health Services) envisions a future where every person in Tompkins County can achieve wellness. Find us online at TompkinsCountyNY.gov/health, and follow us on Facebook at facebook.com/TompkinsWholeHealth and on Twitter at @TCWholeHealth. Get Whole Health updates or other county announcements via email or text, sign up here.

Media contact: Shannon Alvord, salvord@tompkins-co.org