The first week of flu season in Florida this year was a tough one. Health officials documented more cases than they saw during the 2017-2018 season, which was one of the worst on record.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that, nationwide, for the 2019-2020 season so far, there have been at least 6.4 million cases of influenza, more than 55,000 associated hospitalizations and approximately 2,900 related deaths.
Kevin Watler with the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County said there have been four flu-related pediatric deaths reported in the state this season, all in unvaccinated children.
“We are seeing a lot of activity in our emergency departments and urgent care centers,” Watler said. “Most of the outbreaks that have been reported so far this season is in school settings or daycare settings."
Four outbreaks were reported in the state during the first week of flu season this year, up from three the previous week.
"We don't want that to grow anymore,” Watler said. “So we know the flu shot is the best way to prevent yourself from getting the flu. Or even if you do get it, it's going to likely lower the risk of death or the severity of it."
Flu activity typically peaks between December and February, and it can last as late as May.
The vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older, including pregnant women.
People most at risk for getting severely ill from the flu are young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease or lung disease, and people aged 65 years and older.
It takes approximately two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop protection against the flu.
Where to get a flu shot:
Each of the Tampa Bay area county health departments and most pharmacies and primary care physician offices offer flu shots. For information about the flu and to find other locations to get the seasonal vaccine, go to www.FluFreeFlorida.com or call your county’s health office:
• Citrus - (352) 527-0068
• Hardee - (863) 773-4161
• Hernando - (353) 540-6800 (Ages 17 and under only)
• Highlands - (863) 386-6040
• Hillsborough - (813) 307-8000
• Manatee - (941) 748-0747
• Pasco - (727) 619-0300
• Pinellas - (727) 824-6900
• Polk - (863) 519-7900
• Sarasota - (941) 861-2900