Riverside County health officials are urging residents to get their flu shot as a way to prevent spread of the illness.

The appeal from Riverside County Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser came Tuesday as he reminded County Supervisors of the 100-year anniversary of the Great Pandemic of 1918, when hundreds of thousands of people died in the U.S. from influenza and millions more succumbed worldwide.

“Those numbers are staggering, and should never happen again,” Kaiser told Supervisors, some of whom received their flu shot at the start of the meeting. “But despite our many medical advancements since then, the best way to fight the flu is still to get your annual shot.”

While the severity of the current influenza season cannot be predicted, Kaiser noted that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that 80,000 people died during last year’s season. In Riverside County, there were 23 flu-associated deaths (people younger than 65) last season.

Health officials recommend anyone 6 months or older receive the vaccine and estimate there will be adequate doses available. The effectiveness of the vaccine will not be known for some time; last year’s flu shot was estimated to be 40 percent effective.

“That directly means you’re 40 percent less likely to get the flu, and even if you do get it, it’s usually less severe,” Kaiser said. “Even in bad years that’s still better odds than you’d get without the shot, and in good years the protection is excellent.”

Residents can also slow the spread of the illness by properly covering their coughs or sneezes, washing their hands frequently and staying home from work or school when they are sick.

According to the CDC,  influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Influenza is different from a cold. It usually comes on suddenly. People who are sick with flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

  • Fever* or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.

For more information about influenza shots, click here.