Mercer: Good Time to Get a Flu Shot

With influenza now widespread across most of the country, people are cautioned to continue taking preventive measures such as hand washing and getting vaccinated if they haven’t already.

Dr. William Mercer, Wheeling-Ohio County health officer, said widespread means that most counties are reporting a higher than usual number of cases. But it’s not an epidemic.

“We’re seeing a lot cases of influenza A. We’ve had several admissions to the hospital for it. People are not really, really sick except for maybe the few that were admitted. But it’s a good time to get a flu shot,” Mercer said.

Mercer said the flu is “unpredictable,” and there is no way to tell how long it will remain widespread.

“One of the hospitals reported to me that they had four admissions last week,” he said. “Most were in their 40s and 60s and one was pediatric. Certainly no deaths at this point, at least not in Ohio County.”

Mercer said once a vaccination is received, it takes the body two weeks to build immunity.

“Most people don’t need Tamiflu, which is the antiviral. And they definitely don’t need antibiotics unless you develop a bacterial infection on top of it – then the doctor can determine that. Handwashing is still one of the best ways to prevent that in addition to the flu shot,” he said.

Along with influenza, which impacts the respiratory system, gastrointestinal flu, often called the stomach flu, is cropping up to.

“We always worry about that hitting our nursing homes, but we’ve not seen that at this point. It goes through them quick and we have to limit visitors,” he said.

Mercer said overall that this flu season is similar to last year’s.

“We’re lucky, but we’re always worried it’s going to be really bad. … That’s the reason we push the vaccines. One of these years we’re going to have that bad flu. It could be this year, next year or 10 years from now, we don’t know,” Mercer said.