GRAND CANYON, Ariz. — Holiday decorations, colorful lights and family feasts are in full swing, and as chilly winter weather moves in, so does another seasonal visitor – influenza.
The influenza virus is responsible for approximately 250,000-500,000 deaths worldwide, most occurring in high-risk patients including the very young, the elderly, and those already suffering from a chronic illness. In the U.S., an average of 200,000 people are hospitalized each year for influenza-related complications, resulting in anywhere from 3,300 to 49,000 deaths.
The start of flu season can vary depending on location and other prevailing conditions — unseasonably warm weather in northern Arizona may delay the virus’ outbreak for weeks. This year, Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported an updated vaccine, which protects against two strains of Influenza A (H1N1 and H3N2) and two strains of Influenza B.
The Grand Canyon Clinic is offering flu shots on a walk-in basis. Most major insurance plans are accepted, including the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS). Cost for patients without insurance is $25. The clinic is open Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Flu shots are also available in Williams at North Country HealthCare and Safeway.
The CDC recommends that everyone aged six months and older receive a flu shot by the end of October in order to be protected through the peak months of December through March. Special formulations of the vaccine are available for elderly and very young patients. Because of data that produced concerns about effectiveness, the CDC’s Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommends not using Live Attenuated Influenza Virus (LAIV), or FluMist Quadrivalent, for any age group.
Symptoms of flu include severe muscle and joint pain, extreme fatigue or weakness, headache, dry cough, runny nose and fever. Vomiting and diarrhea are less common. The CDC advises staying home, drinking plenty of fluids, and avoiding contact with others if you have these symptoms. Contact your healthcare provider immediately if you experience shortness of breath, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe vomiting or pain/pressure in your chest or abdomen, as you may be experiencing dangerous complications.