It's not too late to get a flu shot

Julie LeBaron, a public health nurse for the Mesa County Health Department, gives a flu shot to Kristy Watkins at the county's health facility at 510 29 1/2 Road, in October of 2010.

With temperatures forecasted in the 50s for this week, it's clear that Mesa County has finally entered fall, which brings with it the beginning of flu season.

To prepare for the virus in the Grand Valley, Mesa County Public Health is holding two flu clinics in October at the Mesa County Community Services Building.

The first is from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. this Tuesday and is only for adults. The second is from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, Oct. 19, and all ages are welcome.

"Everyone should get a flu shot," Mesa County Public Health Epidemiology Program Manager Heidi Dragoo said.

"We have actually seen some early flu activity in Mesa County. We've had a couple of early positives that were quite a bit earlier than what we've seen previously. We know flu is in the community, so now is the time for folks to get their seasonal flu shot."

Dragoo said Public Health officials weren't sure why the flu showed up early this year, but said they do typically see some flu activity each summer.

However, the season peaks in January or February. Getting the shot before the holiday season is ideal, Dragoo said.

Mesa County starts to track the flu in October and keeps records of the number of hospitalizations and deaths that result from the flu each year.

Last season, 117 people were hospitalized for the flu, while the 2017-18 season had nearly twice that number at 232 hospitalizations.

"We know that it (the flu shot) is our best protection against being hospitalized or dying from the flu," Dragoo said. "It's excellent at preventing those severe outcomes associated with the flu. If for no other reason, protect yourself from getting really sick with the flu. Also it's the best way to protect your loved ones."

So far, the flu cases the county has seen have been for a common strain of the flu, Influenza A, which the seasonal flu shot covers, Dragoo said.

Despite potential side effects to the flu vaccine, Dragoo said they are uncommon and typically involve a mild fever or fatigue.

The most common side effect, Dragoo said, is a couple days of soreness at the injection site.

In the interest of public health, Dragoo said the county wants to get as many people vaccinated against the flu as possible and can work with people who are uninsured or underinsured to get them the shot.

She said the country tries to keep the process relatively painless.

"Once they get signed in, they'll go and see one of our wonderful and very talented nurses who will make it so quick and easy to get a flu shot," Dragoo said. "You'll be in and out in just a couple minutes. We want to make it as easy as possible."

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