Flu deaths reported; Doctors urge people get shot

By Ashley Spicer - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Doctors are encouraging people to get the flu shot as new details emerge about some of the first flu deaths of the season.

Idaho has reported its first flu death. A woman over the age of 60 died Monday. Then on Tuesday, Arizona reported its first flu death that occurred just outside of Phoenix.  A woman over the age of 65, who had underlying health conditions died. New Mexico has reported two flu deaths- both men ages 67 and 69.

There have also been flu deaths reported in California and North and South Carolina. Several of the deaths were people over the age of 65.

Doctors say the vaccine may not be as effective in elderly people because their immune system isn't as active, but they say there's a higher dose vaccine that can help.

Last year 36,000 people died from the flu across the country, according to Florida Health.

Bonnie Thomas believes children should especially get the shot.

“Yeah, I do, if they're out in public more or in crowds where there could be the germs, why not,” said Thomas.

Dr. Vandana Bhide with Mayo Clinic believes the flu is just beginning to spread this season.

“I think it's early in the season, so we're going to see more activity in January and February,” said Bhide.

Bhide says about half of the people eligible for the shot usually get it. She says children, the elderly, and people with a compromised immune system are more likely to get the flu.

“There's the high does vaccine for people who are over 65. Because we know they don't respond to the influenza shot as well so this one boosts the immune system even more. It's supposed to be 25-percent more effective,” said Bhide.

This year's vaccine is supposed to be more effective. Bhide says it will better protect against the H3N2 strain, which is the most common strain we saw last flu season.

She says it's important that people know the differences between the cold and the flu. She says the cold usually starts with a runny nose and sore throat and the cough won’t be as early on like cases of the flu. Symptoms of the flu include cough, high fever, and body, muscle, and joint aches.

If you want to learn more about that higher dose vaccine for people over the age of 65, you can contact your doctor. If you want to get the flu shot, you can head to drug stores like CVS and Walgreens.

The cost is usually $20 or $25, but health officials say that's well worth it considering just how dangerous getting the flu can be.

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