Flu cases already reported among Alaskans as CDC says flu season is coming

Published: Dec. 3, 2021 at 5:17 PM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Americans can expect a flu season this year. Last week the CDC released a health advisory about a cluster of flu cases occurring on college and university campuses. Katherine Newell, a CDC epidemic intelligence service officer based in Alaska, said that isn’t happening here, yet.

“Currently in Alaska we’re not seeing any of the influenza outbreaks in university or college settings yet, but that doesn’t mean that people in university and college settings don’t need to go and get their flu shot, they definitely still do,” Newell said.

About 70 cases of flu have been reported in Alaska this season, according to Newell. That quantity is on a trajectory to end up higher than last season’s total of 124 positive cases, but still a slow start. During a normal year, the state usually sees between 4,000-7,000 cases of the flu.

Newell said it’s too early to know how this season will go, but she said getting vaccinated against the flu is as important as ever, and many Alaskans have yet to do so.

“Our vaccination rate in Alaska is currently 18%, which is very low,” she said. “It is less than what it was this time last year, so we would really, yeah, just really stress that people need to go out and get their seasonal flu vaccine. Just because you had It last year, it doesn’t mean you are protected again this year.”

The CDC recommends everyone aged 6 months and older get a flu shot. Very young children are among those who are most at risk from complications from the flu. People over 65, pregnant women, those with underlying health conditions and Alaska Natives are also at a greater risk of complications.

“These are people that really need to go out and get their seasonal flu shot because it will help keep them protected,” said Newell.

Newell said it takes two weeks after receiving a flu shot to reach maximum protection, which means people planning to gather for the holidays would need to consider getting a show quickly to reach immunity by Dec. 25.

According to Newell, it is possible to get both COVID-19 and the flu at the same time, but vaccines can help keep people safe.

“We have the knowledge and the resources to protect ourselves against both, and so now is a great time to go out and do that,” she said.

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