Last year, the H1N1 flu was on everyone's mind. Health officials warned Americans this strain of flu possibly had the potential to be the most deadly strain of flu since the 1918 epidemic. Along with the regular flu shot, people also were urged to get vaccinated for H1N1. And in the six-county area served by the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, 20,000 residents heeded that call.
This year - at least to this point -there does not seem to be another H1N1-type strain on the horizon to cause the type of worry seen last year.
"We are not expecting this flu season to be as bad as last year because the H1N1 virus did not hit the Mid-Ohio Valley as hard as we had prepared," MOVHD Clinical Secretary Renee Swisher said.
That is good news. However, it does not mean people should avoid getting their flu shot this year.
The H1N1 virus did not seem to strike this area last year as hard as many health officials had seemed to fear-possibly because of the many people who received the vaccine. However, people should not assume it was a lot of worry about nothing. H1N1 claimed one life in our area and many others were hospitalized with its symptoms during the winter months.
The MOVHD soon will be holding its flu clinics in Wood, Calhoun, Pleasants, Ritchie, Roane, and Wirt counties. We urge everyone to get the vaccine, but especially those 65 years of age or older, those with chronic medical conditions, children 6 months to 5 years, women who are pregnant or will become pregnant during the flu season.
It is always an educated guess on the part of health officials to try and predict which influenza strains will be prevalent in a given year. This season's one vaccine will protect against last year's H1N1 virus. It also protects against the H3N2 virus and influenza B virus. We urge residents should to be vaccinated for influenza. The flu season has its own timetable.
Health officials say influenza peaks in January or February. However, with school back in session, there probably are cases now of people with flu-like symptoms.
Please get your flu shot. It is a small price to pay for protection this winter.