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Not flu season yet, but shots available in pharmacies

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It might not be flu season yet, but officials are urging residents to get vaccinated now.

Even though it seems far off now, Ricky Elliott, spokesman for the Covington County Health Department, said residents, especially those who are more susceptible to the disease, should start making preparations. Those who are pregnant, living with diabetes or asthma, or undergoing cancer treatment, are also urged to get a flu shot as early in the flu season as they can, to help prevent the illness.

While the extremely young and old are also at a higher risk of catching the flu, parents of newborns are told to wait until the child is 6-months-old before the baby can receive the treatment.

“We start giving shots to children when they are 6-months-old because they don’t have as many antibodies built up in their systems as we do,” Elliott said.

Elliott said the vaccines should arrive in Covington County next week.

“We’re thinking probably around the 12th, so people can call after the 13th to see about getting vaccinated,” he said. “As far as flu shot clinics, nothing has been set yet, but we will be scheduling those.”

Area doctor’s offices, including pediatrician’s offices, report they won’t receive the vaccines until October; however, area pharmacies are offering the vaccines now.

“The recommendation is get the vaccine as soon as you can,” said pharmacist David Darby. “Typically, it takes a couple of weeks to build up your immunity, and it will last throughout the season – even if you get it now.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates anywhere between 3,000 to 49,000 people die from flu in the United States each year, and up to 200,000 are sick enough to be hospitalized. A lot depends on the strength of the flu strains circulating.

During last year’s flu season, 160 children across the country died from flu.

Along with receiving a flu shot, the Centers for Disease Control recommends several other steps to prevent protect one’s self from influenza: get a flu vaccine, avoid contact with sick people, cover mouth and nose when sneezing, as well as cleaning and disinfecting commonly used surfaces and objects around the house that could harbor and spread the virus.