Kodiak Daily Mirror - Flu hasn t hit peak in Alaska vaccination recommended
  
Flu hasn't hit peak in Alaska; vaccination recommended
by Wes Hanna / whanna@kodiakdailymirror.com
Dec 14, 2011 | 11 views | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
KODIAK — Now is the perfect time for Alaskans to consider getting a flu shot, says Doreen Stangel of the state Department of Epidemiology.

In Alaska, flu season usually peaks after the new year, she said, and a flu vaccination takes time — two weeks — to develop into an immunity.

While the flu season has not yet struck Kodiak Island in a major way, with many providers reporting little flu activity, Georgia Blain of the Kodiak Area Native Association said the flu is definitely here, as she hears daily reports of flu-like symptoms.

“Everyone of all ages should rush in to get this vaccine,” Blain said. The vaccine is free for KANA beneficiaries.

She also pointed out that among the three strains of flu that make up the vaccine this year is N1H1, the strain responsible for the 2009 pandemic.

Dr. John Koller of the Kodiak Island Ambulatory Care Clinic said current thinking is that there will be another flu epidemic, which is why the state government is trying to get everybody immunized, especially those in high-risk groups, including children or people with chronic diseases such as diabetes.

“We try to get everybody immunized, so when it comes to the community it doesn’t spread like wildfire,” Koller said.

For Dr. Shawn Vainio at Kodiak Island Medical Associates, it’s the numbers that tell the tale. An estimated 36,000 people in the United States die from the flu each year. This makes the flu vaccine No. 1 as a vaccine for preventing death.

Clinics contacted around Kodiak report they have ample supplies of flu shots, but availability of the vaccine nasal spray varies. The nasal spray has been popular with parents because it doesn’t involve a shot for kids, but it is not recommended for kids younger than 3.

Lydia Anderson, a medical assistant at the Kodiak Community Health Center, said while she has seen an uptick in the number of people getting the flu vaccine, she has noticed fewer children getting it, even though they are a high-risk group.

Children get a lot of vaccines and to add another to the list each year may be a turnoff for many parents, Anderson said. Children younger than 8 need two doses, which may add to parents’ reluctance.

What makes children high risk is that their immune systems aren’t as developed, Anderson said.

Contact Mirror writer Wes Hanna at whanna@kodiakdailymirror.com.
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