An unvaccinated woman in her late 50s is the first person identified with the flu this season, the Arizona Department of Health Services and the Maricopa County Department of Public Health confirmed this week.
The woman was not hospitalized.
Though the state's "flu season" begins in October, when the first confirmed case arrives is anyone's guess. Most people don't go to the doctor, so they're not tested. Last year, the first confirmed case in the state did not appear until December.
"And now the obvious questions: 'How bad will this season be? Will the vaccine be protective against the strain of flu circulating?' and the all important 'Should I get my flu shot?'" Dr. Bob England, director of the Maricopa County Department of Public Health, said in a news release. "We just don't know yet which strain will dominate this season or how bad it will be. But we do know that the best way to protect ourselves and those around us is to get our flu vaccine."
The flu vaccine takes several days to take full effect so health officials recommend getting the shot early. Some pharmacies began clinics in late August and early September.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get the flu vaccine. Flu vaccines protect against three different flu viruses; an H3N2 virus, an H1N1 virus and an influenza B virus.
"Remember, getting your flu shot is as much about community protection as it is about personal protection," Will Humble, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said in a release. "There are people who can't get a flu shot. It's up to all of us to do the right thing. While we're protecting ourselves when we get the shot, we're also preventing the flu from spreading to our communities."
Last year Arizona had 4,000 flu cases and one person younger than 19 died from influenza. The numbers of people 19 and over who die from influenza are not individually reported to the state.
Health officials remind people that if they are sick, they should stay home. People who have a cough or sneeze in public should cover their mouths and noses.
For more information about the flu and its symptoms or where to find a flu vaccine in Arizona, visit StopTheSpreadAZ.org.
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