Flu Clinics Begin Wednesday

Monday, October 8, 2012

Flu season is approaching and the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department urges everyone who can receive influenza vaccine to do so. Vaccine for the 2012-2013 flu season has arrived and the  Health Department will begin making appointments at its Third Street, Ooltewah, Sequoyah, and Birchwood clinics on Wednsday.

Residents can schedule flu vaccination appointments by calling one of the following locations between 8 a.m.-4 p.m.

Third Street Facility – 209-8050
Ooltewah Health Center – 238-4269
Sequoyah Health Center – 842-3031
Birchwood Health Center – 961-0446

“The single best way to protect yourself, the people you care about, and those around you is to get the flu vaccine,” said Nettie Gerstle, communicable disease program manager at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department. “It is easier and more convenient than ever to be vaccinated. There are many different places where flu vaccine is offered and there are ample supplies."

The CDC recommends annual flu vaccine for everyone age 6 months and older to reduce their risk of getting the flu. Some people are at a high risk of developing serious complications from seasonal flu. The CDC urges those at high risk and those who live with or care for someone at high risk for serious complications to get vaccinated.

The following people should get seasonal flu vaccinations each year:
1. Anyone 6 months of age and older who wants to reduce their risk of becoming ill with    
    seasonal influenza.

2. People at high risk for complications from the flu, including:  
Children aged 6 months until their 5th birthday, especially those younger than 2 years old
Pregnant women or women who will become pregnant during the influenza season
People 50 years of age and older
People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
People who live in nursing homes and other long term care facilities
People who are morbidly obese (BMI > 40)

3. People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu (see above) 
Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these 
children are too young to be vaccinated)
Healthcare workers

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against three influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. The viruses in the vaccine are based on the predominantly circulating flu viruses from the previous flu season. The 2012-2013 flu vaccine will protect against 2009 H1N1, and two other influenza viruses (an H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus).  It takes two to four weeks after the vaccination for protective antibodies to develop. Because immunity wanes over time, annual vaccination is necessary, regardless of which strains are in any given year’s vaccine.  

The Health Department offers the vaccine as an injection (shot) or nasal mist (FluMist). The flu shot is approved for people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions. As an alternative to the flu shot, healthy, non-pregnant, people ages 2-49 years may choose the nasal spray vaccine, FluMist.

The cost of the flu shot or nasal spray vaccine is $32. Pneumonia vaccine will also be available for $77. Flu and pneumonia vaccines combined are $87. The Health Department accepts Medicare Part B, Blue Advantage, Railroad Medicare, TennCare, cash, or check. Uninsured individuals may be able to receive flu vaccine at a reduced rate.

The flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus that can be spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing. Flu symptoms typically include: fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills, muscle aches, and extreme tiredness. For most people, the flu lasts only a few days, but some people can become very ill. The flu can lead to pneumonia, and can be dangerous for people with heart or breathing conditions, officials said.

Over a period of 30 years, between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated annual deaths in the United States ranged from a low of approximately 3,000 people to a high of approximately 49,000 people. 

Persons sick with the flu should stay home; wash their hands frequently; cover their noses or mouths when coughing or sneezing; and drink plenty of fluids. They can also contact their doctor, who may prescribe antiviral drugs that can help reduce the time it takes for symptoms to improve. 

For more information, visit http://health.hamiltontn.org/.

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