One of the benefits of last year's warmer-than-usual winter was a corresponding mild flu season. This winter, according to the Farmers' Almanac, will be milder than normal with average precipitation, which should help keep influenza outbreaks in check.
But even with an optimistic outlook, health officials know influenza viruses still will appear. That is why vaccinations are recommended annually for almost everybody 6 months and older.
Judging by the lines of automobiles snaking through the Hays Med parking lot Sunday, a lot of people are taking the advice to heart. Shae Veach, the hospital's vice president of regional operations, said participation was at an all-time high.
"We had a record turnout this year and (were) pleased to give 3,900 doses during this important event," he said.
Sponsored by the Hays Medical Center Foundation, the Free Drive Thru Flu Shots program gets bigger every year. Seventy-five volunteers staffed the event, which is available to anybody who shows up. As in past years, participants were encouraged to bring non-perishable food items that will be given to the community assistance center. Almost 1,200 pounds of food was collected Sunday.
It's a win-win situation and embodies the adage of an ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. While the contagious respiratory illness usually has mild effects not requiring medical care, catching the flu can result in hospitalization and even death on rare occasion. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises certain categories of people are at high risk of developing severe complications: Individuals with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease; pregnant women; people 65 years and older; and people who live with or care for anybody in the high-risk groups.
Even without a pandemic caused by a new virus, each flu season's severity is difficult if not impossible to predict. State health officials in Kansas are expecting a relatively mild season this year, but still are encouraging people to get vaccinated. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and Health and Environment Secretary Robert Moser received their shots Monday publicly to promote the prevention's importance.
"If individuals were unable to take advantage of the Drive Thru" in Hays, Veach said, "they are encouraged to visit their health care provider, Ellis County Health Department and other community retailers also offer the flu vaccine."
We would offer the same encouragement. We also would congratulate the Hays Medical Center Foundation and all the volunteers for making the vaccine process so convenient. The Drive Thru is an excellent example of Hays Med's commitment to the community.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry