Flu shots are available, get one now says Gila River Health Care

Emma Hughes
Gila River Indian News



The Influenza (flu) virus is a respiratory illness that can range from mild to severe symptoms and may even lead to hospitalization or death. The flu can circulate year ‘round, but most flu activity usually occurs from October through March with peaks in December-January. COVID-19 and the flu share similar signs and symptoms. Both spread from person-to-person when there is close contact and may spread before symptoms appear. 


Flu symptoms include fever, chills, headache, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches that can last up to two weeks. On average, the flu affects 5-20% of the state’s population, more than 4,000 people are hospitalized due to flu-related complications and 700 people die from the virus, according the Arizona Department of Health Services. Elderly, young children, and those with certain health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease are at higher risk for the flu.


Dr. Wesley Yamada has been working with the Community for 33 years and currently serves as Interim Chief Medical Officer for Gila River Health Care. He highlighted the importance of vaccinations during the current pandemic. The flu vaccine is available each year to protect you from up to four different flu viruses that scientists anticipate will circulate. Currently there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19, although developers, researchers and manufacturers are working on the development.


The flu vaccine protects you for up to six months and takes about two weeks to build up your immune system. You could still be at risk for the flu or flu like viruses, but studies have shown that the vaccine reduces the severity. “Illnesses and diseases that are very similar or mimic the same symptoms as flu, you can catch,” says Dr. Yamada, such as the common cold, which the flu vaccine does not prevent. Washing your hands, covering your cough or sneeze, physical distance and wearing a mask if you are out in public help protect you and others from the spread of the flu and COVID-19. 


When a surge of COVID-19 cases hit the state in July of this year, many health care centers were severely impacted and left with fewer services for other patients. Dr. Yamada discussed the possibility of flu and COVID-19 cases to spike in the coming months due to the return to school, holidays and travel. Last flu season, GRHC saw an increase of flu cases in December. The state reported nearly 37,000 flu cases, its highest numbers in ten years. 


Last flu season, Gila River Health Care administered over 10,000 flu vaccinations but this year amidst the pandemic, GRHC has a goal to vaccinate at least 15,000 people in the Community by the end of October. Flu clinics in the Community began in September and are available along with the Community’s routine COVID-19 testing. It is possible to contract the two viruses, Influenza and COVID-19, at the same time. It is highly recommended to continue to protect yourself and others, get tested for COVID-19 and get a flu shot. For more information on the flu clinics in the Community, visit GRHC.ORG/FLU.