NEWBURYPORT — Starting today, the city’s Health Department is extending it hours to accommodate anyone seeking a flu shot.
Department hours this week will be 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. today and tomorrow and 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday through Friday.
City health officials are recommending everyone become vaccinated against the influenza virus due to the high levels of “influenza-like illness” across the region. They especially urge flu shots for people at high risk, including children under 5 years old, but especially younger than 2 and adults 65 and older. People with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, chronic lung disease, heart disease, neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions, blood disorders, kidney or liver disorders and people with weak immune systems are also at increased risk for the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health have identified a Type A influenza known as H3N2 as the predominant strain reported so far this season. The strain, historically associated with more serious illnesses, is among those covered by the current vaccine.
Officials said while no vaccine is 100 percent effective, some people might get vaccinated and get the flu in the 10 days to two weeks it takes for the immunity to take hold. The Influenza vaccine produced this season is 91 percent effective, officials report.
Massachusetts is one out 29 states reporting high levels of influenza-like illness this season, with at least 18 related deaths reported. The CDC reports that the proportion of people visiting health care providers and hospitals with flu-like symptoms climbed from 2.8 percent to 5.6 percent within the last four weeks. At this time last flu season, that spike was only at 2.2 percent. The estimated rate of flu-related hospitalizations in the U.S. was 8.1 per 100,000 people, which is high for this time of year.
For more information on the vaccine virus selection, visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/vaccine-selection.htm. For a complete list of people at risk, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/swineflu/h3n2v-cases.htm. For more on tracking and surveillance of the influenza virus visit, www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/fluactivitysurv.htm.
To reach the city’s Health Department, call 978-465-4410.