It's already January, and if you think the flu season has gone by, think again. The Barbour County Health Department says it's never too late to vaccinate and there's plenty of good reasons why.
Medical professionals start to offer flu vaccine as early as possible most years, with some places offering the annual vaccine fairly early each fall. And getting an early start can make a big difference, especially in an area like ours, where flu season can run for more than half a year.
"This technically could go, in this area of the United States, we could have flu season that starts, realistically, it could start in September, and it could go clear to the end of May. That's a really long time," said BCHD's Rochelle Sutton
Vaccinations are also important this year since three different strains are being found in the area, including the H1N1 virus, or swine flu that made headlines in 2009. Even one un-vaccinated person can spread the virus quickly to their community.
"It's just exponential. You could have that whole entire family get sick, or you could have two or three people get sick. But for every one or two or three people, you've got three or four more people that you're exposing," Sutton said.
Many people who come down with a strain of the flu will get sick, heal, and get better. But that's not always how the disease takes its course. Sutton said there can be severe consequences in some cases.
"We get sick, stay sick a really long time, maybe pneumonia, maybe viral endocarditis, where the heart gets inflamed, maybe long-lasting damage to the heart," said Sutton.
If you're looking for a place close by to get the flu vaccine, you shouldn't have to look too far. Staff at the Barbour County Health Department say your local health department should have the vaccine, and if they don't, they can point you to a place that does.