"Usually you'll see it increase right around Christmas, like December, January and February," Summit County Public Health Nurse Jean Paskett said. "But we start immunizing people in September and we can immunize them throughout the whole flu season, right through June."
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), some people are at a high risk for flu-related complications, which can be severe. The CDC estimates that between 1976 and 2006, 3,000 to 49,000 people died from the seasonal flu.
The Summit County Health Department recommends vaccinations for those with elevated risks for getting the flu, such as residents over 50 year old and those who have asthma, or simply anyone who wants to reduce the chance of catching the flu.
"The whole goal of this is to try to prevent people from dying from flu, and from complications like pneumonia," Paskett said.
There are plenty of vaccines to go around this year, as well as places to find them. "Your grocery stores are now giving vaccines, and so is the Health Department and doctors' offices," she said.
A variety of flu vaccinations are available to residents, depending on age, health and preference.
The traditional flu shot, or intramuscular injectable, is an inactivated vaccine that goes into the muscle, and can be administered to anyone over the age of six months.
Another vaccine recently on the market is the intradermal flu shot that goes right under the skin. This year is the second year it is available and, like the injectable, it uses an inactivated vaccine.
"It gives you the same protection rate as the injectable but is less invasive," Paskett said. "The vaccine doesn't go in the muscle, so you don't get the deep intramuscular pain. You get more of a surface injection site pain. But you will feel the sting from it. It kind of feels like a bee sting, and gives you a little red welt on your arm after."
The flu mist is a nasal mist that is squirted into each nostril. It uses a live vaccine that is weakened so that it does not give the actual disease, Paskett said.
"It is a really nice way to get protection, especially for those people that are paranoid of getting shots, or kids who are really scared," she said, adding that it is a better protection than the shots because it is a live virus.
The flu mist can be administered to those between the ages of 2 and 49 without chronic medical problems, such as asthma, diabetes or heart problems.
A high dose flu vaccine provides three times the strength of the other flu vaccines and is available to those 65 and older.
"As we age, our immune systems starts becoming compromised and we don't get adequate flu response from the regular flu vaccine," Paskett said. "Some people have a weakened immune response, and they may be fighting other conditions like cancer, diabetes; or heart, lung or kidney problems. So they've actually manufactured a better fit for those people to give them a better immune response."
Vaccines through the Summit County Health Department cost $20 for flu mist, intradermal flu shots and injectable flu shots. The high dose flu shot costs $40. The cost is $10 for children 6 months through 18 years who are under-insured, have no insurance or have Medicaid.
Summit County locations and hours to receive flu vaccines can be found at http://www.immunize-utah.org/apps/flu/ .
An annual flu shot is recommended for:
Everyone 50 years of age or older.
Residents of long-term care facilities housing persons with chronic medical conditions.
Anyone who has a serious long-term health problem with:
metabolic disease, such as diabetes, anemia and other blood disorders
Anyone with a weakened immune system due to:
HIV/AIDS or other diseases that affect the immune system.
Long-term treatment with drugs such as steroids.
Cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs.
Anyone 6 months to 18 years old on long-term aspirin treatment (who could develop Reye Syndrome if they catch influenza).
Pregnant women who will be past the third month of pregnancy during the flu season (usually November-March, but past March in some years).
Physicians, nurses, family members, or anyone else coming in close contact with people at risk of serious influenza.
An annual flu shot is also encouraged for:
Healthy children 6 to 23 months old and their household contacts and out-of-home caretakers.
Household contacts and out-of-home caretakers of infants less than 6 months old.
People who provide essential community service.
Travelers to the Southern hemisphere between April and September, or those traveling to the tropics at any time.
People living in dormitories or under other crowded conditions, to prevent outbreaks.
Anyone who wants to reduce his or her chance of catching influenza.
- Courtesy of the Summit County Health Department