Preparing for flu season

By CHRIS WILSON
Staff Writer
Cooler temperatures signal a change in season, which many times results in the spread of colds and influenza. Now is the time for persons who plan to get flu vaccinations to do so.
According to District IV Health Officer Dr. Robert Trotter, there is an adequate supply of the flu vaccine this year and now is the optimum time of year to receive it.
“The CDC (Center for Disease Control) has not alerted anyone of a severe shortage (of flu vaccines this year),” Trotter said. There are four manufacturers producing the vaccines and they are expected to be able to supply enough shots. To date, 143,000 doses of the vaccine have been delivered throughout Mississippi, with another 64,000 doses expected. Last year a shortage of the vaccine resulted in only those persons who were considered high risk for the illness being able to receive the few vaccines that were available.

Fewer cases last year
Despite the limited supply of vaccines last year, Mississippi fared well in terms of influenza outbreaks with relatively few cases reported.
In Mississippi, the flu season typically begins in late December or early January and continues through March. The season here peaks in early January. People are urged to get their flu shots in October or November to assure protection. When a person gets a flu shot, it normally takes about two weeks for their body to build the antibodies to protect them from the influenza virus. Flu vaccinations from previous years do not offer protection from this year’s flu. Each year the vaccine is formulated differently to match what medical experts believe will be the season’s prevalent virus.
The flu shot is usually administered in the arm and is a killed virus. Each shot contains three influenza viruses — one A (H3N2)virus, one A (H1N1) virus and one B virus.
While anyone can receive the flu shot who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu, certain high risk people are urged to get the shot to avoid serious flu complications or to avoid spreading the illness to high risk people they may be in close contact with.

Who’s at risk?
The following people who are considered high risk should get the flu vaccine:
n People 65 and older
n People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
n Adults and children six months and older with chronic heart or lung conditions (such as asthma)
n Adults and children six months and older who needed regular medical care or were hospitalized during the previous year because of a chronic disease or weakened immune system.
n Children six months to 18 years of age who are on long-term aspirin threapy
n Women who will be pregnant during the flu season
n All children 6 to 23 months of age
n People with any condition that can compromise respiratory function or the handling of respiratory secretions.
Others who should get the flu shot are people ages 50-64 because they may already have one or more medical conditions that increase their risk for serious flu complications. Also people who can transmit the flu to others at high risk, such as health-care workers or caregivers of the sick, young or elderly, are urged to get a flu shot.
“All people over 6 months of age should get a vaccine,” recommended Dr. Trotter. He said it is important for persons who are around infants to be vaccinated so they do not spread the flu virus to a child who is too young to receive the vaccine.
People who should not get the flu shot are those who have an allergy to eggs. Anyone who has had a severe reaction to the flu shot in the past. And anyone who has had Guillain-Barre syndrome within six weeks following a previous flu shot.

Where to
get flu shots
Flu shots are available at the Monroe County Health Department in Amory or Aberdeen.
In Monroe County last year, 1,500 to 2,000 flu shots were administered by the Health Department. To date this year, 1,130 flu shots have been given in Amory and Aberdeen. Dr. Trotter said another 200 doses have been ordered for Monroe County last Thursday to be sure there are enough to meet demand. Cost is $10 for children, and $20 for adults. High-risk individuals who have been displaced by Hurricane Katrina may be eligible for flu shots at reduced cost. Flu and pneumonia shots can be covered by Medicare, Part B or Medicaid for those who qualify.
The Monroe County Health Department clinics are located at 1300 Highway 25 South in Amory and at 307 E. Jefferson Street in Aberdeen. They are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.. No appointment is necessary. Flu shots are also available through local physicians and at various health fairs in the region.

Flu Symptoms
Influenza, or flu, is a disease of the lungs and its typical symptoms include fever and respiratory symptoms, such as a sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, as well as headache, muscle aches, and often extreme fatigue.

Preventing the Flu
Clean hands are a good way to prevent the spread of the flu virus. People should do frequent and
thorough hand washing that lasts for 10-15 seconds. Also avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth since the flu virus can enter the body easily at those places. It is also advised to stay home if you are sick with a cold or other illness because you could be more susceptible to catching the flu at that time. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue if coughing or sneezing to prevent the spread of germs. And avoid close contact with people, especially those who are ill.