Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


September 21, 2013

Flu season: Early vaccinations encouraged

— — Ready or not fall is almost here. And if the cool nights and mornings we’ve been seeing in recent days isn’t a sure sign of the changing seasons, health officials are now bracing for a possible early flu season.

In fact, they say flu season is already here. Flu season typically runs from September to April, according to Sandie Davis, RN, BSN, a public health nurse with the Mercer County Health Department. The health center is now offering vaccinations to the general public. Public health nurses also have been visiting local businesses and other entities to offer flu shots to people who might otherwise not have the time to get one.

People including those who are more than 65 years old, pregnant women, and anyone with heart disease, lung problems, kidney problems or a weakened immune system are especially at risk. Young children are at the highest risk.

“They tend to get the flu much easier,” Davis said of the different at-risk groups. “If you have ever had the flu, you know how important it is to get a flu shot.”

Davis says the flu vaccine has been “vastly improved” over the years, and people who receive the shot shouldn’t get sick.

Sometimes a person who has just received a flu vaccination may feel a little sluggish or weak, but this side effect is rare nowadays, according to Davis. The majority of people who receive a flu shot do not feel any effects at all, Davis said. But getting a shot flu shot doesn’t mean immediate immunity. In fact, it takes up to two weeks for a person to build up immunity after receiving the vaccine.

The current flu vaccine covers three strains of the flu: H1N1, H3N2, and the Massachusetts B virus.

“Strains are different each year, so it’s important to get your flu vaccination every year,” Davis said. “If you do get vaccinated, it decreases the impact of getting the flu. It’s a much milder form if they do (get it).”

Flu symptoms include fever, chills, muscle aches, fatigue, a runny or stuffy nose, or headache.

Those wanting to get a flu shot are reminded that the Mercer County Health Department is still currently located at its temporary site at the St. Luke’s Professional Building in Bluefield, which is near the old St. Lukes Hospital and the new Behavioral Health Pavilion of the Virginias. Flu shots are available from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.

While it may be perceived as an inconvenience to some, getting a flu shot is truly the best way to protect yourself, your family and your loved ones this holiday season and winter.

It is of course still too early to predict if this will be a bad, or normal, flu season. But we can take steps today to safeguard ourselves against a bad flu season in the weeks ahead.

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