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'Concerned and nervous': Ottawa County encouraging citizens to get flu shot amidst hospital overloads

Citizens are encouraged to get vaccinated by the end of November.

OTTAWA COUNTY, Mich. — As the flu season begins, the Ottawa County Department of Public Health is encouraging the community to get their flu vaccinations.

The county is pushing for anyone ages six months or older to get their flu shot by the end of November.

County officials say they expect to see an increase in the number of flu cases this year compared to last year due to relaxed COVID-19 prevention strategies.

Those strategies not only helped prevent COVID-19, but also cases of the flu. 

Older people, young children, and those with certain health conditions, are at higher risk of serious flu complications.  

"Our health systems are strained already right now and going into flu season, everyone is concerned and nervous, and we don't want to not be able to care for someone who's having a heart attack or some other medical emergency because everything is full due to flu or COVID-19," said Marcia Mansaray, the Deputy Health Administrator for Ottawa County Department of Public Health (OCDPH).

Mansaray also said it is safe to get your flu shot at the same time as your COVID-19 vaccine or booster shot.

According to the OCDPH, the flu can cause mild to severe illness, and in some cases, lead to death. 

OCDPH also said, "the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, circulating in the air, that infect the nose, throat, and lungs."

The health department says flu symptoms can include:

•    Fever

•    Cough

•    Sore throat

•    Runny or stuffy nose

•    Muscle or body aches

•    Headaches

•    Fatigue

•    Stomach issues including nausea, vomiting and diarrhea can rarely occur in cases involving young children.

"Be sure to cover your coughs and sneezes, sanitize surfaces, wash your hands and use hand sanitizer when washing isn't possible, said Toni Bulthuis, Immunizations Supervisor at the OCDPH. "In addition to those practices, vaccines are the most effective way to protect yourself. We highly encourage getting a flu shot in the fall, especially during the months of October and November. The flu vaccine does not cause influenza infection."

COVID-19 prevention strategies in place in 2020 prevented many of the cases normally seen by the OCDPH.

"With the heightened awareness of disease prevention measures including masking, hand washing, staying home when ill, and physical distancing over the last 18 months, we saw very little flu activity," said Derick Chia, Epidemiologist at the OCDPH. "COVID-19 prevention strategies were also effective in reducing cases of other respiratory and air-borne illnesses like flu."

For more information visit their website here or call 616 396-5266. 

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