The 2017-18 flu season is shaping up to be one of the worst on record. Featuring a particularly nasty strain of flu that is both virulent and hard hitting, this year’s flu has resulted in a number of deaths throughout the nation and has left thousands home from work and school fighting high fevers and other extreme flu symptoms. Not only that, but this flu epidemic has yet to reach its peak in terms of the number of influenza victims infected and that number is increasing daily.
Data compiled by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that the flu is currently most active in New York, Puerto Rico and 32 states experienced high activity. This includes Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Currently, nine states are experiencing moderate influenza-like illnesses activity — Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. The District of Columbia and six other states experienced low flu-like activity, including Connecticut, Michigan, New Hampshire, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. Three states — Delaware, Maine and Montana — are experiencing minimal activity.
However, there is good news in this scenario. The CDC reports that by getting an annual flu vaccination you not only help prevent infection by the flu strain for which this year’s vaccination was intended, but also that an annual flu vaccination can help lessen the effects and shorten the duration of other flu strains that are currently active.
For those living in a high-to-moderate activity area, the CDC recommends that people get an annual flu vaccination, even this late in the traditional flu season because of the virulent nature of the flu this year. This is especially important for people over the age of 50. If you are living in one of the states with a lower incidence of infection, you should still get your flu vaccination as the rate of infection in those areas could increase at any time.
Veterans enrolled in VA health care are eligible for a no-cost flu shot at any of the over 8,000 Walgreens nation-wide in addition to local VA health care facilities. Simply present a Veterans Identification Card and a photo ID, at any participating Walgreens or Duane Reade location. Vaccinations will be available through March 31, 2018.* VA and Walgreens are committed to keeping Veteran patients healthy, and during this flu season, vaccinations are the best way to prevent the spread of flu.
*This wellness benefit is only for Veterans enrolled in the VA Health Care system. Family members and Tricare members are not eligible. The no-cost flu shot option is for quadrivalent vaccine only, available now through March 31, 2018. Vaccines subject to availability. State-, age- and health-related restrictions may apply. Vaccine may be in limited supply after March 1, 2018. This does not constitute an endorsement of Walgreens or Walgreens products. Patients will also be asked to complete a vaccine consent form at time of service.
About the author: Glenn Johnson has been with VA since 2001 and currently serves as the chief of communications for VA’s Office of Community Care. He is a graduate of Syracuse University and is an Army Veteran who served from 1990 to 2000 as a photographer, photojournalist and war correspondent.