"Say Boo to the flu"
SIKESTON -- October marks the start of the flu season, and residents should now think about when and where they will get their vaccinations, health officials say.
"The prediction across the country is there will be plenty of vaccine," said Nanci Gonder, spokesperson for Missouri Department of Health and Human Services.
Gonder said October and November are the best time to receive the flu shot, and typically the number of flu cases will peak in January or February.
"We're hoping for a nice, quiet flu season," Gonder said.
The current flu level in Sikeston, New Madrid, Charleston, East Prairie, Benton and Portageville is low, which means about 3 to 8 percent of the population has cold-and-flu-like symptoms.
Paula Rost, director of nursing at New Madrid County Health Department, said the department will conduct its first flu shot clinic Oct. 24.
"Even though there is an abundance of the vaccine, people should not get lax. Come on in because you never know what can happen," Rost said.
Kay Griffin, nurse practitioner at Scott County Health Department, said about 30 residents have made appointments for the department's first flu shot clinic, which is today. The health department is conducting flu shot clinics (by appointment only) every Tuesday this month and has scheduled clinics in Benton and Chaffee.
"As more vaccine comes in, more clinics will become available," Griffin said. Currently there are no restrictions on who can receive the vaccine.
"Sometimes we have to do high-risk people first, but there should be plenty of vaccine this year. The supply is just starting to come in. We will probably get most of it in October and November," Griffin said.
The Visiting Nurses Association of Southeast Missouri will also administer flu shots to residents in its 15-county service area, said Helen Sander, professional communication liaison for VNA of Southeast Missouri.
"There's no way to know what the season will carry, but we always encourage our staff and families to get it," Sander said, adding last year there were cases in May.
Last year, December and March tied in number of flu cases, Sander said. February had the most cases followed by January and then December and March, she said.
Certainly, there's a recommendation for those who are high-risk to get the flu shot, the health officials said. These include: children aged 6 months through 5 years, pregnant women, people 50 years or older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions and people who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, the Centers for Disease Control said. People who live with or care for those at high-risk for complications should also be vaccinated.
"Anyone who wants to avoid getting influenza should or could get the flu shot," Gonder said.
I've heard people say that having had the flu, they will never missing getting a flu shot again.
Sander said many people who avoid getting a flu shot are afraid of the needle or fear getting sick from the flu vaccine.
But Sander said people cannot get sick from the flu vaccine today.
"If people get sick after getting the flu shot, then they were already sick when they were getting the shot," Sander said, adding the vaccine takes two weeks to take effect.
In addition to receiving the vaccine, there are other preventive measures to fight influenza.
"We certainly recommend frequent hand washing but particularly in the flu season, and wash frequently throughout the day," Gonder said. "If you are sick, to help prevent the spread, cough into a tissue or your elbow to help prevent spreading germs to others."
The top places for germs to hide are phone receivers, refrigerators, microwave and door handles, kitchen faucets, light switches and TV remotes, ac#cording to Say Boo to the Flu -- a program to help educate families on the importance of flu vaccination and other prevention tips to help scare the flu virus away this fall and winter.
Every year in the United States, on average: 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications; and about 36,000 people die from the flu, according to the CDC.
-- Mississippi County Health Department is conducting its annual health fair where flu shots will be given from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Oct. 12 at its office in Charleston.
-- New Madrid County Health Department will administer flu shots from 8:30 a.m. to noon and from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. or until the vaccine runs out Oct. 24. Must be a resident of New Madrid County and 18 years or older.
-- Scott County Health Department will conduct flu shot clinics by appointment only every Tuesday in October at its office in Sikeston. Scheduled clinics are from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 24 at Riverside Regional Library in Benton and 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. Oct. 26 at Nutrition Center in Chaffee.
-- Visiting Nurses Association of Southeast Missouri will conduct the following clinics: 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 18 at the Charleston VNA office; 8:30-9:30 a.m. with cholesterol screening Oct. 23 at the Sikeston VNA office; 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 24 at Dexter VNA office; 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 25 at the Sikeston VNA office; 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 26 at the New Madrid VNA office; 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 30 at The Medicine Shoppe in Sikeston; 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Nov. 6 with cholesterol screening at Dexter VNA; and 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Nov. 8 at Sikeston VNA office.