Seasonal flu shots will be available to everyone starting today and are predicted to be exhausted in a couple of weeks, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said.
Of the almost 3 million flu shots that the CDC has purchased for this year, only about 400,000 shots remain. Since Oct. 1, the flu shots have been available free of charge to young children, elderly citizens and other high-risk priority groups.
The CDC said that it predicts an overwhelming number of people may opt to receive the shots once it is made available to the whole public, and that, judging from past experience, the entire stock of vaccines may be used up in only two weeks.
The CDC urged those who plan to receive the flu shots to get them as soon as possible, since the seasonal flu is expected to peak this month, and it takes about two weeks for the body to develop immunity after receiving the vaccine.
Health officials said they have observed a high rate of matching strains between the vaccines and this year’s seasonal flu strains, which means getting the flu shots will provide good protection against the flu viruses that are circulating the country.
In related news, the CDC said that in the past few weeks, it has seen an increased number of cluster infections of stomach flu. Norovirus, which is a major cause of gastroenteritis, commonly known as stomach flu, has been responsible for most of the 15 cases of cluster infections that have been reported to the CDC.
Symptoms may include vomiting, diarrhea, fever and dehydration. The CDC said because the virus mainly travels by the fecal-oral route, it is important to thoroughly disinfect areas that have been in contact with vomit or feces from people with the illness with bleach water.
The CDC also urged the public to wash their hands frequently and thoroughly with soap.