Health officials: current flu shot protects against H1N1 - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

Health officials: current flu shot protects against H1N1

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Flu activity has reached epidemic levels in the United States. Sixteen flu deaths have been reported in Tennessee, along with dozens more in Georgia.

Doctors say it's hitting young adults hard this time around. But it's still not convincing many to get their flu shot, said Dr. Susan Rapp. Most of her patients have been young adults that never got a flu shot.

"They tend to avoid getting the vaccinations because they're busy, going to work, doing other things," Dr. Rapp said. "You feel really good, right up until you don't."

In a typical flu season, people over age 65 make up the highest number of those hospitalized with the flu. But that's not the case this year. Dr. Rapp said 61-percent of recent flu-related hospitalizations have been between ages 18 and 64.

She encourages patients to get a flu shot, but said it's hard convincing them sometimes.

"They might, but people who are out feeling well and not missing work aren't coming in just to get their flu shots," Dr. Rapp said.

Hamilton County Health Department hasn't seen a big demand from patients, either.

"We've been giving the flu vaccine all season, but there hasn't been a super high demand," said Margaret Zylstra.

Zylstra said the health department is now offering free flu shots to anyone, regardless of age or health insurance coverage.

The H1N1 strand has been circulating this year, and Zylstra said the flu shot currently offered does cover it.

"So getting the vaccine is the best protection," she said, adding that it's not too late to get a flu shot.

Health officials said the virus is expected to continue circulating through February and March. After getting a flu shot, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become effective.

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