Medical conditions increase risk for flu complications, Valley doctor says
PHOENIX — A Valley doctor is encouraging people with underlying medical conditions to consult with their doctor about getting a flu vaccine with influenza season around the corner.
“Many of us will get some sort of virus throughout the year as we catch a cold or something along that,” Dr. Michael White, chief clinical officer at Valleywise Health, told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.
“Even those with chronic medical conditions usually are able to fight that but these more serious viruses like the flu, when you have an underlying problem like heart disease that can make things worse leading folks to end up being hospitalized.”
White said those with underlying medical conditions aren’t more susceptible to catching the flu but are more at risk of developing severe complications.
The flu is currently categorized as sporadic in Arizona.
There have been 819 laboratory-confirmed cases of influenza as of Oct. 6 for the 2020-21 season in Maricopa County, a decrease from nearly 21,000 cases in the 2019-20 season.
Similar numbers were seen nationwide as flu cases dropped to historically low numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic, but it remains to be seen whether a return to social activities and less masking will result in a return of the flu virus to former levels.
White said there have been no hospitalizations within Valleywise Health yet so far this year for the flu, but that is expected to change as the winter months near.
“At this time of the year, it’s very important that we do things that reduce the risk of severe hospitalization and severe complications from things that we can prevent,” he said.
“We’re lucky to have a vaccine that’s very good against these viruses, so those individuals that have underlying medical problems after consultation with their health provider ought to consider receiving the influenza vaccine to prevent that risk that you may have severe complications if you were to contract the flu.”
In addition to getting a flu vaccine, which is widely available, White recommends people do things known to reduce the risk of transmission of the virus.
This includes washing hands and staying at home when sick.
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Ali Vetnar and The Associated Press contributed to this report.