Following flu season spike, Anchorage public health officials on track to quadruple immunizations

A flu shot (Photo by Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg)

Anchorage public health officials are ramping up efforts to curb the spread of influenza in Alaska’s largest city.

Over the past two months, a series of free public immunization clinics have helped distribute flu vaccines to nearly 3,900 people as of Nov. 20 — almost four times as many as last year, according to the Anchorage Health Department.

The increase in immunizations follows a surge in reported cases of influenza earlier this year. Drew Shannon, a public health nurse with the Anchorage Health Department, said the last spike started in January. But Alaska’s flu seasons are unpredictable and varied, with cases often reported throughout the year, Shannon said.

“Knowing that we could have a huge surge of flu cases in Alaska at any given point, it’s recommended you get your flu shot as soon as possible for each flu season, and get a flu shot each year,” he said.

So far this fall, Anchorage providers have already reported 81 cases of flu, nearly twice as many as reported over the same time period last season, according to public health officials.

To help fight the illness’s spread, the health department worked with the Anchorage School District to host dozens of free public immunization clinics at schools throughout the city. Public health nurse Shannon Davis said the impacts ripple far beyond the school grounds.

“Not only does it get the kids vaccinated; it’s open to the community — so parents, siblings, staff members,” Davis said. “I think this helps reduce sickness, number of days absent, number of days off from work. All of those things; I think it’s a domino effect.”

Besides school clinics, immunizations are available Monday-Friday at the health department’s Downtown Anchorage headquarters.

Click here for a list of free public flu immunization clinics in Anchorage.

Kirsten Swann is a producer and reporter for Alaska Public Media.

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