Have you received your flu shot yet? December 6 – 12 is the National Influenza Vaccination Week. It’s not too late to get vaccinated; especially with the peak flu season coming up. See how quick and easy my experience was. While your arm might be a little sore; it’s worth it to avoid getting sick.

In addition to reminding you to protect yourself and your family; I wanted to give you a little insight into how our State Lab monitors and tests flu samples. We test and track flu cases year-round. While cases are rare in the summertime, they’re not unheard of. We had about 50 flu cases last summer. During the peak flu months of January through March we test up to 300 samples per week.

These samples are collected with a swab and sent to the lab. There are two main ways to test for the virus. The first is to grow a culture over a two to three week period. The second can be done in less than 24 hours though molecular testing. With this method we’re able to test larger volumes, more samples and have quicker turnaround.

Some of the things we look for are how the virus reacts to our current vaccines and how the virus changes over time. For example, the 2009 H1N1 pandemic virus is now a seasonal virus that has replaced the H1N1 virus previously circulating in humans.

The flu virus changes, or shifts, over time. Drifts or shifts in the virus may affect vaccine efficacy, as happened last year. That’s why it’s important to get your flu shot every year. We’re here to collect information on trends as well as provide data that helps develop effective vaccines. It’s not too late. Protect yourself and your family by getting vaccinated against the flu.