Each year families look forward to the arrival of their out-of-town friends and relatives, but there is one visitor that comes around every year that tends to always overstay its welcome. It is quiet and always tends to surprise us at the most unwanted time. It’s the flu.

Most people often refer to their sickness as the stomach flu, a gastrointestinal illness that often results from a virus or bacteria in unclean water or spoiled food. The stomach flu and flu are two different sicknesses. The flu is a viral infection that is similar to a cold, but unlike a cold it cannot be treated with antibiotics, according to WebMD.

In 2009, people worldwide were affected by the birth of a new flu virus called H1N1, or swine flu, that resulted in more than 12,000 deaths in the U.S. On average, 15.6 to 62.6 million people get the flu every year – with 200,000 of those people being hospitalized, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Each year CDC predicts what flu viruses will circulate in the upcoming season and vaccines are prepared to fight the viruses. 

The most common influenza viruses are influenza A (H1N1) viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses and influenza B viruses. This year’s vaccine is developed from three viruses, two A and one B, and called the trivalent influenza vaccine. Health departments will also offer a quadrivalent vaccine that includes two A and two B influenza viruses. The CDC recommends either vaccine – one does not outdo the other.

While there is the myth that the flu vaccine will give you the flu, CDC assures people that is impossible. Influenza viruses contain dead viruses – ones that cannot cause infections. 

Local health departments are making more of an effort to have vaccines more accessible for people. 

“I think why people don’t get flu shots is because it’s mainly a convenience issue,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, a professor of family and child health at the University of Arizona. “Antibodies in flu shots protect people from the flu and it’s events like these that make it easier for people to receive them.”

Dr. Garcia was part of an education event and vaccination clinic for adults 65 years and older on Oct. 8 that was put on by the Pima Council on Aging, Pima County Health Department and National Council on Aging. The three are partnering together in a Flu+You campaign, which informs older adults about the impact of the flu, importance of vaccines and the goal of the campaign – to improve flu immunization rates.

About nine out of 10 deaths that are related to the flu occur in adults 65 years and older. 

Last flu season, 58 percent of adults 65 years and older in Arizona received a flu vaccine. Pima County and other parts of Tucson are all making an effort to make vaccines more available for people of all ages whether that is vaccine clinics at an event, a pharmacy or at a doctor’s office. Whatever the case, local health departments encourage residents to go to a nearby location and receive a flu vaccine.

For more information visit the Pima County Immunization Clinics website at www.pimahealth.org.

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