With the flu season now in full swing, the Commonwealth Health Care Corp. is bolstering its efforts to combat the flu virus and is urging all CNMI residents over 6 months old to get their annual flu vaccine, also called the “flu shot.”
CHCC’s Department of Public Health Services is working with all the schools in the CNMI to get all students vaccinated, according to Jeremy Sasamoto, Immunization Program manager. He said this initiative is an annual project of the Immunization Program to help students combat the flu virus.
The flu season typically starts in September and ends the following spring, usually around late March.
Influenza is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death in rare cases. While every flu season is different, the flu affects people differently and vaccines are updated to better match the flu viruses that are expected to be most common during that flu season.
Sasamoto said Influenza B was the most common case of the flu last year. “We saw an uncommon pattern of the influenza B virus in patients last year,” he said.
This form of influenza can only pass from human to human, and is equally severe to its counterpart, Influenza A. Influenza B is highly contagious and can have dangerous effects on a person’s health in more severe cases; it can cause seasonal outbreaks and can be transferred throughout the year.
However, Influenza A is the most common form and can spread from animals to humans, and is known to cause pandemics.
It takes the body two weeks after getting the flu shot to have the right antibodies to fight off the flu virus. CHCC emphasizes getting the flu shot does not lead to getting the flu.
There are instances where flu shot patients have gotten the flu after receiving the shot, but those instances are still rarer than getting the actual flu infection. Even those people who are infected with the flu even after vaccination tend to not get as sick as those who get the flu and are not vaccinated.
CHCC recommends that flu shots are not administered to infants under 6 months of age, who must rely on “herd immunity,” meaning people around them must be vaccinated and healthy in order to protect the child. Getting vaccinated helps to prevent the spread of the flu to the very young and very ill who may not be able to get the flu shot, such as those undergoing chemotherapy for cancer.
All pregnant women, regardless of their trimester of pregnancy, are also encouraged to get a flu shot. A flu shot during pregnancy can help prevent the flu and its complications for both the mother and fetus, and protects the baby from the flu after birth.
Those requiring a flu shot you may visit:
• CHCC Outpatient Clinics on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota
• Kagman Community Health Center
• Marianas Medical Center
• Medical Associates of the Pacific
• Pacific Medical Center
• Saipan Health Center