With cooler temperature months arriving along with a new flu season, people are encouraged to get the flu shot vaccine as soon as possible.
Hospitals, clinics, pharmacies, health departments, many employers and the Wah-Zha-Zhi Health Center in Pawhuska are among the various places where the flu shot is available.
Dr. Ron Shaw, CEO and chief medical officer at the WHC, encourages people to get the flu shot at their earliest convenience because “it can take two weeks to develop the proper level of immunity” to protect against the flu. The flu shot is available free of charge at the WHC and is also available to all Osage Nation government employees, he said.
This year, the WHC is offering a quadrivalent flu shot vaccine, which is designed to protect against four different flu viruses, Shaw said. The quadrivalent flu vaccine protects against two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Flu season activity peaks between December and February and can last through May, Shaw said, emphasizing the recommendation that individuals receive the vaccine early. Shaw also noted the WHC is only offering flu shot injections and is not offering the nasal spray vaccination.
According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health, a total of 44 people are reported as hospitalized after testing positive for the flu between Oct. 19 and Sept. 1 of this year.
Those recommended to receive a flu shot are children as young as six months and older. There are high-dose shots and shots made with adjuvant for elders over age 65, according to the CDC.
Flu symptoms include: cough/ sore throat; runny/ stuffy nose, muscle/ body aches and headaches. Doctors usually prescribe Tamiflu, an antiviral drug to treat the flu and it can take 48 hours to start taking effect, Shaw said.
At the WHC, healthcare providers can take a nasal swab from a patient to test if he or she has the flu and the test results take about five to seven minutes, Shaw said.
For individuals who have gone years without flu shots without getting the flu and questions “do I really need one,” Shaw says his response to patients is: “You’ve been lucky so far, but you can’t rely on it. I hope you never get sick, but why wait?”
In the meantime, Shaw said people can take flu prevention precautions including washing hands to keep them clean; covering nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing; or by wearing masks in public, especially if sick.
The WHC in Pawhuska can be reached at (918) 287-9300. For more information about the WHC, visit https://www.osagenation-nsn.gov/what-we-do/wah-zha-zhi-health-center.