And the Flu Battle Begins

By Sandra Zunino

The leaves are just starting to turn, cooler weather will soon be upon us… and, unfortunately, so will flu season.

High fever, headaches, muscle aches, chills, cough and congestion to the Nth power – there’s nothing pretty about influenza nor its symptoms. Starting around October and plaguing us all the way through May with peak times from December through March, the flu is a highly contagious respiratory infection that packs a punch of misery.

While we don’t know exactly why influenza rages this time of year, common thought is, people are indoors more during cooler temperatures, promoting closer contact and more chances of spreading the virus. Because germs survive longer during cooler temperatures, hard surfaces such as doorknobs, desks and countertops turn into virtual Petri dishes. Dry air dehydrates mucus membranes, preventing us from effectively warding off virus particles. Influenza outbreaks also suspiciously coincide with the seasonal beginning of public schools. Go figure.

Statistically, about 25–50 million influenza cases are reported every year in the United States, leading to 150,000 hospitalizations and 30,000–40,000 deaths annually. Older adults, young children and people with specific health conditions are at higher risk for contracting serious flu complications.
There are some simple steps you can take to minimize the chances of getting the flu, or any cold for that matter. Obviously, stay away from people who are sick. Wash hands frequently and avoid needlessly touching your face, nose or eyes. Do away with bad habits like nail biting. Keep up with regularly maintaining good overall health like getting plenty of sleep, staying physically active, managing stress, drinking lots of fluids and eating nutritious foods.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention; however, recommends to really prevent any chances of getting the flu, everyone over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine. According to their website at www.cdc.gov/flu, “While flu is unpredictable, it’s likely that 2009 H1N1 viruses and regular seasonal viruses will cause illness in the U.S. this flu season. The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season.”

There are two types of influenza vaccines. Flu mist, which is live, attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV) containing live but weakened influenza virus, is sprayed into the nostrils. Flu shots, which are killed influenza vaccine, are injected into the muscle.

Because Influenza viruses are always changing, annual vaccination is recommended. Each year scientists try to match the viruses in the vaccine to those most likely to cause flu that year. It takes up to two weeks for protection to develop after the vaccination, but the protection lasts about a year.

Flu mist is not recommended for everyone. Check with your healthcare provider to make sure you can receive LAIV.

The Talbot County Health Department will be holding a Flu Clinic on Wednesday, October 6 from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Talbot County Community Center located on Rt. 50 in Easton. A drive-thru area will be available from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for those with physical limitations or special needs

The cost for the adult flu vaccine is $20. Pneumococcal will be available for $57.
Medicare or straight Medical Assistance will be the only insurance accepted, so remember to bring your card. Receipts will also be issued for individuals paying by cash or personal check wishing to submit a claim to their own insurance company.

All Talbot County schoolchildren in Pre-K through 5th grade (ages 4 through 11 years) will have the opportunity to be vaccinated at school later this fall. Alternatively, children meeting those age/grade requirements who are Talbot County residents are eligible to receive the seasonal flu shot free of charge at the Talbot County Health Department Clinic on October 6th. Flu mist will not be available at the clinic, but will be brought to the schools. For all other ages and/or out-of-county residents, the cost of the seasonal flu vaccine is $20.

Please wear a short-sleeved shirt to receive the flu shot. For more information, visit www.talbothealth.org/fluor or call the flu hotline at 410-819-5681 (English) or 410-819-5674 (Spanish)

The Queen Anne’s County Department of Health will be holding their 2010-2011 Flu Vaccination Clinics every Tuesday from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and every Thursday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. with extended hours on October 7th, November 4th and December. 2nd from1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The QAC Department of Health is located at 206 N. Commerce Street in Centreville.

This season, people 65 years old and older will have two flu shots available to choose from – a regular-dose flu vaccine and a new higher-dose flu vaccine designed specifically for people 65 and older, which should result in a stronger immune response. Both vaccines will protect against the same three viruses. The health department recommends discussing the best options with your healthcare provider.

Seasonal Flu Vaccine Shots for children and adults are $20, Seasonal Flu Vaccine Shot High Dose is $35 for persons 65 years and older. Seasonal FluMist® Nasal-Spray is $26. Only healthy persons ages 2 – 49 who are not pregnant should receive the flu mist. Flu Shot or FluMist are free of charge for children in grades K through five.

Pneumonia shots will also be available for eligible adults. The QAC Health Department accepts cash, checks, Visa and MasterCard. They will bill Medicare Part B primary insurance cardholders only. No other insurance will be accepted. Please wear a short sleeve shirt to receive the shot.

For additional information, contact the Queen Anne’s County Department of Health at 410-758-0720, 410-778-0993, DHMH Toll Free 877-463-3464 or Maryland Relay 800-735-2258.

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