It’s that time of year again. Time to get your flu shot in preparation for the upcoming influenza season.
If you haven’t received your flu shot, the Franklin County Health Department is hosting a free drive-thru flu clinic from 6-8 p.m., Tuesday on Mero Street under the overpass.
Influenza is a contagious, respiratory viral infection that can be very mild to very severe and can even cause death in someone with a compromised immune system. The flu is spread by an infected person when droplets are emitted during coughing and sneezing. Symptoms may appear 5-7 days after exposure to the flu virus.
There are treatments for the flu but the best protection is prevention. For the 2013-14 flu season, the influenza vaccine is made up of three separate strains: the H1N1 virus, which is a Type A virus; the H3N2, that is also Type A; and a Type B virus. There is a new quadravalent or four-virus vaccine but it is not widely used.
The flu season has historically taken place during December through March. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the protection from the vaccine lasts up to a year. Each year the CDC conducts research to determine the main flu viruses that are likely to be circulating. However, with the newer strains such as H1N1, the flu season has expanded into more of a year round possibility. The flu season may start as early as October and last until May.
It is recommended by the CDC that everyone age 6 months and older receive a flu vaccine every year. Those at higher risk of complications include pregnant women, children under 5, individuals over 65 and people with medical conditions including asthma, diabetes and those with chronic diseases.
There are different delivery methods for the flu vaccine. The most frequently used form is the intramuscular injection (shot), which is given in the upper arm and has very few side effects. This method of delivery is used for the original flu vaccine and also the new “High Dose” vaccine that is given only to people age 65 and older.
High Dose has a concentrated higher dose of the antigen but the same amount is given. It was specifically developed for older people to help “wake up” the immune system.
The Intradermal Method was developed last year and can be given to anyone age 18-65. This device delivers a small amount of vaccine just underneath the first layer of skin.
Another method of flu vaccine delivery is the nasal mist. This is a live vaccine. It can only be given to healthy individuals ages 2-49.
To stay healthy this flu season the CDC recommends three actions:
- Get your flu vaccine in the method that is right for you.
- Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs, such as cover your coughs and sneezes, stay away from sick people and wash your hands frequently.
- If you get the flu, take antiviral drugs to lessen the severity and decrease the amount of time you will be sick and that you can spread the virus.
Tammie Bertram RN, MSN, is director of nursing at the Franklin County Health Department, 100 Glenns Creek Road.