Thousands Die From Flu Each Year, But You Can Prevent It From Happening

The Carteret County Health department is working to change those statistics. A seasonal vaccine clinic for people ages 65 and older will be held on Sunday, from 10:30 AM to 3 PM. Some medicare is accepted. The cost is 25 bucks for a flu vaccine and 30 dollars for the pneumonia vaccine. The clinic is at the health department on bridges street in Morehead City.

The Health Department will accept Medicaid and Medicare Part B (the red, white and blue card.) The more recent Medicare Advantage plan cannot be accepted by the Health Department, so those with this coverage are encouraged to go to their private physician for the vaccine. Everyone should bring a form of identification with them along with their insurance cards. The cost for those without insurance is $25.00 for the flu vaccine and $30.00 for the pneumonia vaccine.

"We have received our entire order of 1250 doses of flu vaccine," states Mrs. Baugham, Nursing Supervisor at the Health Department. After the October 14 clinic for seniors, we will make the vaccine available to the general public. We're glad to report that there is no shortage of vaccine this year."

Symptoms of the flu are fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Stomach symptoms can sometimes be experienced by children. Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions like congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.

Flu is spread from person to person in respiratory droplets in coughs and sneezes. To help stop the spread of germs it's important to cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, wash your hands often and teach your children healthy habits. The recommended etiquette now is to cough or sneeze into your bent elbow, so that you are less likely to spread germs on your hands or through the air.

Frequent and thorough hand washing is essential to help prevent passing germs to others. Use soap and warm water, lathering up for 15 to 20 seconds before rinsing. When soap and water are not available, keep 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizers nearby to cleanse the hands.

For some, it is important to consult their doctor first before having a flu shot. Included are persons with life-threatening allergies or with allergies to eggs, anyone who has had a severe reaction to the vaccine in the past, or anyone who developed Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of getting an influenza vaccine previously. The flu vaccine is not approved for children less than six months old. Anyone with a moderate or severe illness should wait until they have recovered before getting vaccinated.

According to Mrs. Baugham, "We would like to encourage everyone to get vaccinated against flu, and we realize that there are a lot of misconceptions about the seriousness of the illness and about the effectiveness of the vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control has some good information that we would like to pass on to those unsure about flu vaccination."

MYTH: "The flu isn't a serious disease."
FACT: Influenza (flu) is a serious disease of the nose, throat and lungs, and it can lead to pneumonia. Each year about 200,000 people in the U. S. are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die because of the flu. Most who die are 65 years and older. But small children less than 2 years old are as likely as those over 65 to have to go to the hospital because of the flu.

MYTH: "The flu shot can cause the flu."
FACTS: The flu shot cannot cause the flu. Some people get some soreness or redness where they get the shot. It goes away in a day or two. Serious problems from the flu shot are very rare.

MYTH: "The flu shot does not work."
FACTS: Most of the time, the flu shot will prevent the flu. In scientific studies, the effectiveness of the flu shot has ranged from 70% to 90% when there is a good match between circulating viruses and those in the vaccine. Getting the vaccine is the best protection against the disease.

MYTH: "The side effects are worse than the flu."
FACTS: The worst side effect you're likely to get from a shot is a sore arm. The nasal flu mist vaccine might cause nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat and cough. The risk of severe allergic reaction is less than 1 in 4 million.

MYTH: "Only older people need a flu vaccine."
FACTS: Adults and children with conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart and kidney disease need to get a flu shot. Doctors also recommend children 6 months and older get the flu shot every year until their 5th birthday. Because children under 6 months cannot get the flu shot, it is advisable for the parents and other caregivers to be vaccinated in order to protect the infant. Flu vaccine is now approved for use during pregnancy.

MYTH: "You must get the flu vaccine before December."
FACTS: Flu vaccine can be given before or during the flu season. The best time to get vaccinated is October or November. But you can get vaccinated in December or later as well.

For more information about the seasonal flu vaccine, call your physician or the Carteret County Health Department at 728-8550. The Department will maintain a recorded message with information on future flu clinics at 252-222-7776.