Officials: Get flu shots now

Published 12:05 am Friday, September 14, 2012



While it may seem too early to think about flu season, now is the time to vaccinate against the contagious respiratory illness.

Thursday, the state health department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encouraged vaccination of everyone 6 months and older against influenza as soon as the vaccine becomes available.

The flu is a very contagious respiratory illness, and the CDC states the best way to prevent flu is to get vaccinated each year.

While the county health department has no immediate plans to host a flu shot clinic, the vaccines are available at local pharmacies such as Rite Aid, Darby’s Village Pharmacy, Fred’s Pharmacy in Opp and all Pharmacare locations. Staff with Andalusia’s Mallette Drug Co. said they expect to have the vaccines in stock in the coming weeks. Residents can also check with one’s private physicians to receive the vaccine.

“Every flu season is different, and we recommend you receive a flu vaccine regardless of whether you had one last year,” Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer, said. “The CDC warns that even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. An annual flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.”

Influenza vaccination is especially recommended for the following people who are at higher risk of influenza-related complications. These are the same groups for whom the immunizations were especially recommended last flu season.

• All children between 6 months and 5 years of age, but especially those between 6 months and 2 years of age.

• Adults 50 years of age and older, especially those 65 years and older.

• Adults and children with chronic disorders and immuno-suppressed.

• Pregnant women

• Children aged 6 months through 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy

• Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities

• Health care workers

• Out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than age 5 and adults 50 years of age and older

• People who are morbidly obese (those with a body mass index, or BMI, of 40 or greater).

Anyone else who wishes to reduce the chance of contracting influenza should get a flu shot.

A person with the flu may have some or all of these symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and often extreme fatigue. Between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the U.S. range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people each year. Approximately 90 percent of deaths occur in people 65 years and older.

The public is also reminded to follow basic infection control measures to help prevent the spread of the flu. These include covering the mouth and nose with a tissue or cloth when coughing and sneezing, washing hands frequently, and staying at home when sick.