Health Department offers mercury-free flu vaccine clinics

September 19, 2012

Staff Report

Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) has scheduled 54 flu vaccine clinics for the 2012 season.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the WCHD recommend all individuals 6 months and older receive a flu shot.

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory disease that infects the nose, throat and lungs, and can lead to serious complications, hospitalization or even death.

Influenza is spread by coughing, sneezing or nasal secretions. Anyone can get influenza, but rates of infection are highest among children.

For most people, flu symptoms last only a few days. Symptoms include fever, sore throat, chills, fatigue, cough, headache and muscle aches. Pneumonia and bronchitis are examples of serious flu-related complications.

The flu also can cause certain health conditions, like diabetes, asthma, and heart and lung disease, to become worse. These conditions also put you at greater risk of flu complications.

WCHD Public Health Administrator Mike Bacon said: “It is not too early to get your flu shot. The flu season can begin as early as October, but most commonly peaks in January or February. However, every flu season is different. Flu vaccine provided in September will give protection throughout the season. Influenza affects everyone differently; even healthy individuals can get the flu and it can be serious. By being vaccinated, you can protect yourself from influenza and help to prevent spreading it to others.”

According to WCHD, there are two reasons for getting an annual flu shot. The first reason is that because flu viruses are constantly changing, flu vaccines are usually updated from one season to the next to protect against the most recent and most commonly circulating viruses. The second reason is that a person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time and annual vaccination is needed for optimal protection.

This year’s flu vaccine is made in the same way as past flu vaccines and has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an annual average of 100 million doses of influenza vaccine have been used in the United States each year.

The 2012-2013 flu vaccine is designed to protect against three different strains of influenza — the A H3N2 virus, the A H1N1 virus and the influenza B virus.

Since the viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), you cannot get the flu from the vaccination. Generally, side effects are a sore arm or redness around the injection site. The vaccine takes usually two weeks for your body to develop antibodies. These antibodies fight off infection if you are exposed to the flu virus.

The following three flu shots are available:

• a regular flu shot approved for people ages 6 months and older;

• a high-dose flu shot approved for people 65 and older; and

• an intradermal flu shot approved for people 18 to 64 years of age.

Individuals with the following conditions are highly encouraged to get an annual flu shot: young children; pregnant women; individuals who care for children younger than 6 months of age; people with chronic health conditions such as heart, lung or diabetes, or a weakened immune system; health care workers; and people 65 years of age and older.

An annual flu shot is $25 or covered by Medicare Part B or covered by Medicaid. High-dose flu shot is covered by Medicare Part B for seniors 65 and older. Intradermal flu shot is $25 for ages 18-64. Pneumonia shot is $60, or covered by Medicare Part B.

Flu shots are administered by Registered Nurses from the WCHD and are thimerosal (mercury)-free.

WCHD’s complete flu clinic schedule can be found at www.wchd.org, or by calling (815) 720-4264.

Take the following everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs and to prevent the flu:

• Clean your hands — Wash your hands with soap and warm water after coughing, sneezing or using the bathroom.

• Cover your nose and mouth — Use a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow — not your hands.

• Contain your germs — Stay home if you have the flu. If you have fever or chills and a cough or sore throat, call your doctor.

For more about the 2012-2013 flu season, visit the WCHD website at www.wchd.org, or the CDC at www.cdc.gov.

From the Sept. 19-25, 2012, issue

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