Health Department preps for 2014-2015 flu season

Staff Report

Winnebago County Health Department (WCHD) has announced its slate of Flu Vaccination Clinics for the 2014-2015 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.

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. The 2013-2014 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,” said WCHD Health Promotion & Protection Director Kara Biery.

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 for the following reasons:

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

WCHD has purchased the Quadrivalent vaccine, which is designed to protect against four different flu viruses: two Influenza A viruses (California H1N1 and Texas H3N2) and two Influenza B viruses (Brisbane and Massachusetts). The cost is $35, or Medicaid and Medicare Part B are accepted. WCHD is also offering the high-dose vaccine, which is approved for people 65 years and older. This vaccine is covered by Medicare Part B.

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.

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.

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 2014-2015 influenza season, visit the WCHD website at www.wchd.org, or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at www.cdc.gov.

From the Oct. 15-21, 2014, issue

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