By Bill Donovan


GALLUP, 12/3/18 — It’s flu sea son again and area hospitals and clinics are making a major push to get as many people vaccinated this year, especially the elderly and infants, after record levels of deaths during the 2017 season.

The Centers for Disease

Control in November reported that more than 900,000 people were hospitalized during the 2017 season and a record 185 pediatric deaths were reported.

Area hospitals and clinics have been seeing people come in with flu-type symptoms in

the past couple of weeks.

David Conejo, CEO of the hospital, said the flu season came late this year.

“We didn’t see a lot of cases in October or early November, but it has picked up since mid-November,” he said.

Dr. Valory Wangler, chief medical officer for the Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital was urging people who have not been vaccinated to visit their local clinic as soon as possible since it takes about two weeks for the antibodies to develop in a person’s body after taking the vaccine.

“The flu is very dangerous and should not be treated lightly,” she said, “particularly by the elderly and the young.” Vaccinations by either spray or shot or available at the RMCH College Clinic or in the lab at the hospital. No appointments are needed. People can also get shots at their doctor’s and at many pharmacies. Residents of the reservation can go to their nearest hospital or clinic.

Wangler said anyone older than 6 months should be vaccinated, but for those with special medical conditions, such as a weakened immune system, he said those individuals should opt for the shot rather than the spray.

One of the questions that people ask every flu season is whether they actually need to take one if they took one the year before late in the season. Wouldn’t this carry over to the following year?

The simple answer to that is no.

“There are many different strains of flu virus,” Wangler said, “and the flu vaccine is updated every year.” Scientists at the CDC each year develop a vaccine that they judge will be able to deal with the prevalent strains that will be around that year.

“It’s impossible to predict in advance how effective the flu vaccine will be,” Wangler said, adding that the season has begun, the CDC is monitoring to see how effective it is.

The CDC studies last year showed the vaccine in 2017 was about 36 percent effective, but the hope is that this year with more advanced techniques being used, the effectiveness rate will be higher.

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