It’s fall in Wyoming and that means the Wyoming Health Department is issuing its annual reminder to residents to get their flu vaccine to protect themselves against the kind of severe flu season seen last year.
According to the Health Department, 23 people died from the flu during the 2018-19 flu season and hundreds were hospitalized.
Although the department isn’t predicting what kind of flu season may be in store for Wyoming in 2019-2020, it is urging everyone to get vaccinated.
“There are a lot of things about the flu we do know,” said Kim Deti, the department’s spokeswoman. “We know it’s coming every year. We know every year we’re going to see deaths, hospitalizations and illnesses. We want you to get that shot.”
Autumn is the best time of year to get a flu shot, Deti said, because it coincides with the beginning of the typical flu season, which generally runs from October through May.
“We don’t necessarily have a time frame,” she said. “But this is a great time of year to get it. We don’t want people to wait until folks around them are ill. That’s not going to help you very much.”
The vaccine takes about two weeks to become fully effective, Deti said, meaning if someone waits until people around them are ill, they may have waited too long.
“If you wait until people around you are sick, you may still get exposed,” she said.
In addition to preventing the flu, the vaccination can reduce the severity of influenza if someone who has received the shot gets sick anyway, Deti said.
“We’re not going to promise it’s 100 percent ironclad protection,” she said. “But it’s the best weapon we have to fight influenza.”
Being vaccinated also helps prevent the spread of flu to others, she added.
“You might be able to bounce back from the flu, but you don’t want to pass the disease on to someone else who is more vulnerable than you are,” she said. “It’s about protecting other people who have more struggles with the flu.”
The Health Department identifies people who may be particularly susceptible to the flu as young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions such as asthma or diabetes and those over the age of 65.
In addition to getting the vaccine, the Health Department urges people to take precautions against spreading the flu, such as washing their hands often.
“Hand washing is extremely important, particularly with the flu and how it’s spread,” Deti said.