As the seasons shift around October and November, the air begins to feel crisp. An autumn chill rolls over the mountains, bringing with it a coziness that’s marked by light scarves, pumpkin spice — and a wave of influenza outbreak.
Each year, flu season is ushered in by the change of weather, and, throughout the colder months, Mercy Urgent Care treats over a thousand patients each season for the virus and its many complications. Millions of Americans get the flu — but you don’t have to be one of them. This fall, Mercy Urgent Care urges Western North Carolina residents to take action, stopping in for a vaccine at any of Mercy’s five locations (or anywhere else vaccines are available). A healthy visit today could save a more serious visit later on.
It could even save your life.
While it varies from season to season, between 5 and 20 percent of the United States population comes down with the flu each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Using last year’s U.S. population statistic, that means a range of 16-65 million people annually.
Millions of these individuals seek medical attention for the flu, and more than 200,000 people per year are hospitalized due to the illness and its complications.
Moreover, annual flu-related deaths in the U.S. are estimated to be in the thousands, ranging anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 deaths in a single year, according to the CDC. Since these deaths usually stem from flu-related complications rather than the virus itself, it makes exact figures nearly impossible to track.
The point is: The flu is more than just an annual annoyance, and there are measures we can take to prevent it from spreading. In the 2016/2017 season alone, the CDC estimates that the flu vaccine prevented an estimated 5.3 million illnesses, 2.6 million medical visits and 85,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations.
On average, though, less than half of the total U.S. population is vaccinated each year. North Carolina lands slightly above average, hovering at just above 50 percent coverage since 2012/2013.
Covered by many healthcare plans, the flu vaccine reduces a person’s risk of developing a flu-related illness by an average of 61 percent, and vaccines are especially important for those at a higher risk of developing complications from the flu — people with chronic conditions (such as asthma, COPD and diabetes), people with heart disease, those who have had a stroke, young children and adults 65 and older, pregnant women, people with HIV or AIDS or people who have cancer.
Because of variations to the strain of influenza each season, it’s important to get re-vaccinated each year to effectively ward off the flu. Flu vaccinations are safe for the vast majority of Americans — with the only exceptions being infants younger than six months, individuals with Guillain-Barré Syndrome (an immune system disorder), those who have had severe allergic reactions to previous flu vaccines and those with life-threatening allergies to ingredients in the vaccine (such as eggs or gelatin).
For your best chance of preventing the flu this season, medical professionals recommend getting vaccinated by early November, before flu season kicks into high gear. Flu shots are now available at all six Mercy Urgent Care locations for ages 5 and up, and cost $34.99 before insurance. And if you’re planning to visit the Burnsville Mercy Urgent Care location, be sure to take advantage of our grand opening special of $20.00 flu shots until the end of December. Don’t be caught off-guard this season, and come see us today!