Don’t Be a Flu Victim!

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The flu vaccine is available to Kaiser Permanente members through the season’s end. Pictured, Nicole Crenshaw-Canales, at left, gets her flu shot early in the season administered by Lynn O’Connor, RN, at right.

It’s no fun when the flu comes for Christmas. Just ask Nicole Crenshaw-Canales, teleservice representative operations director at the Kaiser Permanente Northern California Appointment and Advice Call Center in Vallejo.

Last December, her 1-year-old niece, 6-year-old nephew, and 77-year-old grandmother all caught the flu during a family trip from San Jose to Los Angeles.

“It was the most traumatic experience I’ve ever had over the holidays,” said Crenshaw-Canales. “It was really scary to see how fast it spreads and how dangerous the flu can be. After that everyone got their flu shot, and they will all get it early on this year.”

The flu hit her grandmother especially hard and fast; she had to be treated in an emergency room because she was developing pneumonia.

Crenshaw-Canales said she was the only one of 6 family members on the trip who got vaccinated. Her family learned the hard way what experts tell everyone every year: Get vaccinated because the flu is no fun and is especially rough for the young and the old.

“Everyone has that thought that, ‘Oh, I won’t get the shot or the flu, and if I do get the flu, I will just take medicine and will get better,’” Crenshaw-Canales said. “I think my family members had a change in perspective after that.”

Plenty of Vaccine

Now is the time to get your flu shot, said Randy Bergen, MD, a Kaiser Permanente Walnut Creek pediatrician and the clinical lead for the Kaiser Permanente flu vaccine program in Northern California.

“You’re protecting yourself, your family, and your community when you get a flu vaccine,” said Dr. Bergen.

Saturday, Sept. 21, was the kickoff for Kaiser Permanente Northern California flu clinics with events at many medical centers and medical office buildings. Flu vaccine clinics will operate through the end of the flu season. Members can call the Kaiser Permanente Flu Shot Clinic Information Line at 800-KP-FLU-11 to find out when and where they can get the vaccine.

Last year was the longest flu season in a decade with a surge in March and April when normally it peaks in January and February, Dr. Bergen said.

He added that the flu is especially hard on the old and the young “because they can develop complications such as pneumonia, and if they have underlying conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, or neurologic problems, they can get much sicker.”

Dr. Bergen said it’s important to practice prevention. Cover your cough if you have one and wash your hands frequently. If you feel sick, stay away from other people.

“A cough or sneeze gets the virus into the air and you can breathe it in or touch surfaces, then you touch your eyes, your nose, or your mouth, and you get infected,” he said.

But not if you get the shot. Dr. Bergen said this year Kaiser Permanente has plenty of vaccine ready to go around — with an expectation of administering 1.8 to 1.9 million doses.

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