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Health Department offers flu shots, flu prevention tips

November 20, 2013

Online Staff Report

Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) has announced Flu Vaccination Clinics for the 2013-2014 season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the WCHD recommend all individuals 6 months and older receive a flu shot. This vaccination is the single best way to prevent getting the flu.

Mike Bacon, WCHD public health administrator, 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, the peak may come earlier or later. Flu vaccine provided in October will give protection throughout the season. The 2012-2013 flu season began early, and provides a good example of the unpredictable nature of the flu season. You can do your part to protect yourself and those around you by getting your vaccination before flu starts spreading in our community. 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.”

Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory disease that infects the nose, throat and lungs, and can lead to serious complications (such as pneumonia and bronchitis), 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, symptoms last only a few days. The symptoms include fever, sore throat, chills, fatigue, cough, headache and muscle aches. 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.

Even if you were vaccinated last year, it is important to get an annual flu shot because:

Flu viruses are constantly changing, and flu vaccines are usually updated from one season to the next to protect against the most recent and most commonly circulating viruses.

A person’s immune protection from vaccination declines over time and annual vaccination is needed for optimal protection. Therefore, annual vaccination is recommended, even for those who received the vaccine for the previous season.

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 has been used in the United States each year, and the vaccine has an excellent safety record.

The 2013-2014 flu vaccine will 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 dead (inactivated), you cannot get the flu from the vaccination. Generally, side effects are a sore arm or redness around the injection site. The vaccine usually takes two weeks for your body to develop the antibodies to 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.

Flu shots are administered by registered nurses from the WCHD. The WCHD’s complete flu clinic schedule can be found at www.wchd.org or by calling (815) 720-4264.

The following preventive actions can help stop the spread of germs and 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 2013-2014 flu season, visit CDC website at www.cdc.gov.

Posted Nov. 20, 2013

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