State records: 16 adults, 2 children died of flu virus last season
The state health department is recommending that all Alaskans 6-months old and older get the flu vaccine, ideally by the end of October. According to a report by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, 16 adults and two children died of the flu during the 2018-2019 season.
DHSS chief medical officer Dr. Anne Zink says a vaccination can go a long way in minimizing the effects of the virus, even from a flu strain not covered by this year's serum.
"The influenza vaccine does a fantastic job at helping to prevent hospitalizations as well as complications but doesn't always protect you from getting the flu altogether," Zink said.
According to DHSS, widespread reports of influenza were received later than usual during the 2018-2019 season — with peak activity in February. DHSS received the highest number of reports for any season to date, noting that may be attributed to an increase in testing for influenza.
Vaccines available now
This year's version of the vaccine, now available around the state, includes updated components of the influenza A virus. The H1N1 virus, or swine flu, that spread across the U.S. in 2009, for example, was a type of influenza A virus.
"There are many different types of influenza A, so every year we look at what's happening around the world, and we look at Alaska specifically and try to choose the best vaccines to protect patients of Alaska."
Besides the most commonly recommended version of the vaccine, there are a few other modified forms.
DHSS recommends that Alaskans over the age of 65 get a "high dose" version of the vaccine. And there's a nasal spray available for people with aversions to injections.
Recommendations for children
The American Academy of Pediatrics has previously recommended the injectable form of the vaccine as a first choice for children, but this season it says the vaccine nasal spray is also an acceptable option.
"This fall, AAP will support patients’ use of any licensed influenza vaccine, in harmony with guidance from the US Centers for Disease Control and Protection," the academy wrote in an online posting.
Free flu shots
Alaska Regional Hospital will host a free drive-through free flu shot event, along with free windshield and headlight cleaning, from 5:30 - 8 p.m. on:
• Wednesday, Sept. 18
• Tuesday, Sept. 24
• Thursday, Oct. 3
• Wednesday, Oct. 9
The Anchorage Health Department, in partnership with the Anchorage School District, is offering a series of free flu shot clinics at various locations within the municipality — including one in Girdwood — from Thursday, Sept. 26. through Thursday, Dec. 5. No insurance is required.
Providence Alaska Medical Center offers a free immunizations clinic on the first Saturday of every month from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.
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