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Officials stress need for flu shots

Cooler weather heralds the arrival of the flu season, but localclinics of the Mississippi Department of Health are prepared tohelp fend off the illness.

Health Department officials have set aside a day at each clinicto concentrate primarily on flu shots or to work after hours tohelp prepare local residents for the upcoming flu season.

The Lincoln County clinic will be open an extra hour Tuesday,until 6 p.m., to provide an opportunity for residents here to getin after work, and the Franklin County clinic has set aside Tuesdayas a day to primarily work flu shots.

The Lawrence County clinic provided flu shots during the “Make ADifference Day” at Cooper’s Ferry Park Saturday.

“Anyone who does not want to get the flu during the flu seasonshould get the flu shot,” said Dr. Brian Amy. “Annual influenzavaccinations prevent much of the illness and death caused by flueach year.”

Flu shots can be obtained at Health Department clinics at a costof $10. Both the flu shot and the pneumonia vaccine are providedfor under Medicare, Part B, and are at no cost to participants inthat program.

Health officials recommend the flu vaccine for people with ahigh risk for complications resulting from the flu, such as anyoneover 50 years of age; those with chronic lung or heart conditions;chronic metabolic diseases or comprised immune systems; pregnantwomen; and children.

Amy also recommends that people who live with others who fallinto those categories receive a shot to avoid spreading thevirus.

“Anyone who lives or cares for someone who is at high risk forcomplications should consider getting the flu shot to decrease thelikelihood that they will pass the flu to their high-risk familymember or patient,” he said. “Flu viruses vary from year to year.It is important for the public to get a shot every year for thebest protection.”

Influenza, or the flu, is a disease of the lungs and can lead topneumonia, hospitalization, and even death. Typical symptoms of theflu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose,headache, muscle aches, and, often, extreme fatigue.

Flu season generally runs from December to March.

“They should go ahead and get their shots, though,” said Dr.Mary Currier. “Any vaccinations received this month will stillprotect them through the flu season.”

It is important to get flu shots early, Currier said, because ittakes the body about two weeks after receiving the vaccination tobuild up the necessary antibodies to fight off a flu invasion.

The two-week wait is the primary cause for the belief that thevaccine causes some people to become ill with the flu, Curriersaid. Many people come to get their shots and were alreadyunknowingly exposed to the virus. Then, when they get sick, theyblame it on the vaccine.

According to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention,complications from the flu claim more lives than any other vaccinepreventable disease. Nearly 800 Mississippians died from influenzaand pneumonia in 2002.

In an average flu season, 114,000 people in the United Statesare hospitalized and about 36,000 die because of the flu. Most whodie are over 65 years of age, but young children less than twoyears old are as likely as those over 65 to be hospitalized.