Flu shots offered at local Saturday clinics
The Central Shenandoah Health District will offer free seasonal flu vaccine at a series of Saturday clinics.
- Sept. 30 – Harrisonburg High School, 1001 Garbers Church Rd., Harrisonburg
- Oct. 7 – East Rock High School, 250 Eagle Rock Rd., Elkton
- Oct. 14 – J. Frank Hillyard Middle School, 226 Hawks Hill Dr., Broadway
Vaccine will be available from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day, first-come, first-served until the supply runs out.
The vaccine is for all residents ages 3 and up. Persons under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. First responders are especially encouraged to get vaccinated.
A recent story in U.S. News & World Report reported “a bad flu season in Australia is serving as a warning sign for the U.S.” The Australia Department of Health has received more than two and a half times more reports of flu compared to last year’s levels. “In general, we get in our season what the Southern Hemisphere got in the season immediately preceding us,” said Anthony Fauci, M.D., director of the U. S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. An “intelligent guess,” he said, is the north will most likely have a bad flu season.
Influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is a serious disease caused by the influenza virus that affects the respiratory tract. It is highly contagious and generally spreads from person-to-person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can be transmitted even before flu-like symptoms appear. A person usually becomes sick one to three days following exposure to the virus. Typical flu symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue.
“Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza and its potentially severe complications. Our goal is for everyone to receive a free vaccine in less than 15 minutes,” said Laura Kornegay, M.D., director, Central Shenandoah Health District. “Herd immunity develops when more people get vaccinated,” Dr. Kornegay explained. “There is less virus present to potentially infect those who cannot be immunized such as infants under 6 months old; this helps protect everyone from this potentially deadly disease.”
“The timing and duration of flu seasons vary – they can occur from early fall to late spring. Receiving an annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to reduce your risk of becoming sick with the flu and spreading the virus to others. When more people get vaccinated less flu can spread through the community so you should get the vaccine as soon as it’s available,” said Hilary Jacobson, local health emergency coordinator, Central Shenandoah Health District. “It takes up to two weeks to develop the vaccine’s full protection, and the coverage can last for up to a year.”
All persons aged 6 months or older should be vaccinated against influenza each year. Particular effort should be made to vaccinate people at higher risk for influenza complications, including:
- Pregnant and postpartum women, or those who will be pregnant during the influenza season;
- Persons over 65 years of age, including residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities;
- People who have chronic lung or heart problems, including asthma; and
- People who have other serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, anemia, cancer, weak immune systems (including those with HIV) or a seizure disorder.
To help prevent the spread of influenza to people in high risk groups, those who live with people in a high risk group and healthcare workers should also receive an annual influenza vaccine. Travelers to countries outside of the U.S. may also need to consider influenza vaccination, even at different times of the year.
Each year in the U.S. approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized due to flu illness, and flu-related deaths range from 12,000 to 56,000 each year, averaging 34,000 per year over the last three decades.
To minimize your risk of contracting or transmitting the flu, follow these simple steps:
- Get vaccinated;
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds;
- Cover your cough, either by using a disposable tissue or coughing into your sleeve, not your hand; and
- Stay at home when you are sick.