Get ready for the flu

St. Louis County health officials are encouraging the public to get an annual flu shot

By Nicholas Elmes

St. Louis County health officials are encouraging the public to prepare for the 2016-17 flu season by getting an annual flu shot.

“It is important for everyone six months of age and older, and without severe allergic reaction to influenza vaccine, to receive an annual influenza vaccine,” said Saint Louis County Department of Public Health Manager Jenelle Leighton. “The most important thing to do to avoid catching the flu is to get vaccinated.”

Leighton said this year’s vaccination would provide immunization against three or four strands of potential flu strains.

“Vaccine virus strains included in the 2016–17 U.S. trivalent influenza vaccines will be an A/California/7/2009 (H1N1)–like virus, an A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)–like virus, and a B/Brisbane/60/2008–like virus (Victoria lineage),” she said. “Quadrivalent vaccines will include an additional influenza B virus strain, a B/Phuket/3073/2013–like virus (Yamagata lineage).”

While in previous years nasal vaccinations have been an option, Leighton said this year health officials were recommending people receive an inactivated flu shot.

“In light of concerns regarding low effectiveness against influenza A(H1N1)pdm09 in the United States during the 2013–14 and 2015–16 seasons, for the 2016–17 season, ACIP makes the interim recommendation that live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV4) should not be used,” she said.

Leighton said that while getting a flu shot is recommend for the majority of the population, a few people should not receive the vaccination.

“Children younger than six months are too young to get a flu shot,” she explained. “For individuals with egg allergies, there are guidelines that are stratified by the type of allergy reaction an individual has to eggs.  Individuals with egg allergies need to inform the person administering the flu vaccine of their allergy and may need to consult their physician prior to the administration. A previous severe allergic reaction to influenza vaccine, regardless of the component suspected of being responsible for the reaction, is a contraindication to future receipt of the vaccine.”

Other potential ingredients in the vaccine, which could cause an allergic reaction, include gelatin and antibiotics, and Leighton recommends people suffering from those allergies consult their physician before get a flu vaccination.

“There are influenza vaccines available for individuals 65 years of age and older, those with egg allergies, and preservative-free influenza vaccines,” added Leighton.

She said flu vaccines were available at a variety of locations around the St. Louis metro area, including pharmacies, grocery stores, discount stores, primary care providers, pediatricians offices, and health departments.

To find a location for a flu vaccine, please visit

“Many insurance companies will cover the cost of the vaccine and many of the locations in which you can obtain a flu vaccine will direct bill the insurance,” she said. “In addition, some of the large hospitals within the St. Louis area has a schedule which they offer free flu vaccines.  For further information, you can visit the SSM website and/or the Barnes Hospital website.  You can also check with your local health department.  St. Louis County Department of Public Health offers flu vaccines and will work with each individual to provide them the flu vaccine.”

Flu season typically runs from October through early spring with the incidence of infections reaching a peak between December and March.

“To avoid spreading the flu you should stay home when ill, and at least for 24 hours after the fever is gone,” she said, noting that those who have the flu should also practice frequent hand washing and good respiratory etiquettes. “Don’t share eating or drinking utensils while ill, limit contact with others when ill, clean and disinfect surfaces, and avoid touching your eyes and nose.”

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