Don’t Wait to Vaccinate, Physician Warns
STRATFORD — With still warm temperatures and the leaves just beginning to fall, it may seem too early to begin preparing for the holidays, but there’s one thing that nearly everyone could be doing right now to prepare for a healthy holiday season.
“Getting a flu vaccine should be a pre-holiday season ritual,” said Dr. Gintare Gecys, a family physician at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine. “It only takes a few minutes in the early fall to keep yourself flu free for the entire season.”
Predicting flu season in advance is about as precise as forecasting a Christmas Eve snowfall while still in October. In normal years, flu season begins in mid-October and runs through early spring. The winter holiday season, when people tend to gather at parties or in crowded malls, will routinely cause a significant spike in the number of flu cases. In a bad year, the flu can cause more than 35,000 deaths and in excess of 200,000 hospitalizations.
“Events of the past couple of years may have caused some people to get out of the habit of an annual flu vaccine,” Dr. Gecys said. “We’ve had years of uneven supplies of vaccine coupled with relatively mild outbreaks in this part of the country. There should be plenty of vaccine available this year, which is good because we have no way of knowing if how bad flu season will be.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that more flu vaccine will be available this year than ever before. The flu vaccine covers the three strains of the illness that experts predict will be the most likely to strike in this country. Dr. Gecys recommends that those who are at high risk of flu should be among the first to seek get vaccinated.
“High risk individuals include those who are older than 50, children between six months and five years of age, pregnant women, those who have a chronic disease or a weakened immune system, and those whose daily routine puts you in close contact with a high risk individual,” Dr. Gecys said. “The flu vaccine is available in both an injectable form and as an inhalable mist. If your physician doesn’t have the vaccine, check with your local or county health department for free flu shot clinics.”
To request an interview with Dr. Gecys, please contact Jerry Carey, UMDNJ News Service, at (856) 566-6171 or (973) 972-3000.
The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ) is the nation's largest free-standing public health sciences university with more than 5,500 students attending the state's three medical schools, its only dental school, a graduate school of biomedical sciences, a school of health related professions, a school of nursing and its only school of public health, on five campuses. Last year, there were more than two million patient visits to UMDNJ facilities and faculty at campuses in Newark, New Brunswick/Piscataway, Scotch Plains, Camden and Stratford. UMDNJ operates University Hospital, a Level I Trauma Center in Newark, and University Behavioral HealthCare, a mental health and addiction services network.