For the last few years, this familiar message emerges around this time of the year, “It’s not too late to get your flu shot.” Once again, the North Carolina Communicable Disease Branch and your local public health department are sending out a public plea to please get vaccinated. To date, there have been 13 deaths attributed to influenza in the 2013-14 season in North Carolina. Even though flu season is already well underway, you will still benefit from receiving the flu vaccine. Flu vaccines are available at both the Pittsboro and Siler City clinics of the Chatham County Public Health Department, Monday through Friday 8:00am – 4:30pm. You may call for an appointment at 919 742 5641 or 919 542 8220, or simply walk in. Click here!
As flu season gets underway, it is important to protect yourself with the flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is the most important step you can take to prevent the flu. Since it takes about two weeks for protection to develop after being vaccinated, be sure to get the vaccine as soon as possible. To get the vaccine, please schedule an appointment with the clinic near you. Appointments for Pittsboro can be made by calling 919-542-8220 and for Siler City by calling 919-742-5641.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older and provides protection for one full flu season. Each year, a new vaccine is developed to prevent the most common types of the virus.
For people who are at high risk, it is especially important to get vaccinated, as the flu can lead to severe medical issues like pneumonia. High risk groups include: people with chronic medical conditions (such as diabetes, asthma, and chronic lung disease), pregnant women, and people age 65 years and older. It is also important for caregivers or family members of people in these high risk groups to be vaccinated.
Flu shots are $30 and the flu nasal spray (mist) is $37. If you have health insurance, Medicaid, or Medicare, please be sure to bring in your insurance card as it may cover some or all of this cost.
For more information about the flu, vaccination, and scheduling an appointment with the Chatham County Public Health Department, please visit www.chathamnc.org/flu or call 919-542-8220 (Pittsboro) or 919-742-5641 (Siler City).
Each year around this time the topic of flu and flu vaccine arises. Flu is the “nickname” for influenza, a disease cause by the influenza virus. Many people confuse influenza with other viral infections such as the common cold or even diarrheal illness known as the “stomach flu”.
Influenza is a viral respiratory illness spread by coughing and sneezing. Influenza’s symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat, extreme fatigue, headache, nasal congestion and body aches. Influenza infection can lead to pneumonia and death in some cases. Even mild cases of influenza cause absences from work and school, lost wages and increased medical costs.
Fortunately influenza vaccine is available. Experts at the World Health Organization recommend which virus strains to include in the seasonal influenza vaccine based on the strains currently circulating. The decision is made for the world’s southern hemisphere in September and those for the northern hemisphere in February. Vaccine manufacturers then begin to develop the vaccine and it is available in the U.S. as early as August.
One of the most common myths associated with flu vaccine is that the vaccine can give you the flu. The flu shot contains killed virus so it will stimulate your body to created immunity against the flu but doesn’t infect the person with flu. The nasal spray vaccine (for healthy, non-pregnant people aged 2-49 years) contains a weakened form of the live virus, enough to produce immunity but not enough to cause illness.
Vaccines, including the influenza vaccine, have been proven to be a safe and effective way of preventing disease. While any medication may produce some side effects in some individuals, for the vast majority of people vaccines are a relatively painless and inexpensive way to prevent illness. A recent Institute of Medicine reports concluded that “few health problems are caused by or clearly associated with vaccines”. You can see the report here, http://www.iom.edu/Reports/2011/Adverse-Effects-of-Vaccines-Evidence-and-Causality.aspx.
Medical experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend everyone aged 6 months and older get a flu vaccination. Your body takes about 2 weeks to build full immunity after getting the vaccine and the immunity lasts about a year. Because the influenza viruses circulating can change every year, you need to get a flu shot every year. Children 9 years old and younger who are getting a flu shot for the first time should get a second dose four weeks later.
Tackle the flu! Protect yourself, your family and your community by getting the flu vaccine. If you have questions ask your doctor, call the local health department or visit a reliable website such as www.flu.gov.
'Clean Hands' by Arlington County on Flickr
It’s that time of year again, when teachers, school staff, and students are returning to Chatham County’s schools. It’s an exciting time for kids and adults alike, full of new possibilities, but it’s also an exciting time for germs! In a school building there are lots of people sharing spaces, places, and objects, creating a perfect environment for germs and illness to spread.
When people are sick with colds and flu, and they cough or sneeze, tiny droplets with their germs get out into the world. Other people can breathe them in or get them on their hands, and germs can survive on surfaces like door handles and desks, for minutes to hours, waiting to be picked up. When germs get into a person’s body, through the mouth or nose for example, they have the chance to cause illness. Data from a few years ago showed that around 22 million school days are lost each year due to the common cold, and 38 million are lost due to the flu.
To keep your child and his/her school healthy, this is a good time of year to brush up on the basics on slowing the spread of germs.
- Cleaning Hands: Try to wash hands regularly with warm water and soap, scrubbing all surfaces of your hands for around 20 seconds or about the length of time it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice. When a sink is not available, alcohol based hand sanitizer is a good alternative- be sure to rub it all over all of the surfaces of your hands and keep rubbing until your hands feel dry.
- “Cough Etiquette”: Cough etiquette is just a fancy way of describing the actions you can take when you cough to limit the spread of germs. One great habit to practice is coughing (and sneezing!) into the inside of your elbow instead of into your hands. This keeps your germs off your hands, which makes you less likely to “hand” your germs to someone else. Catching your coughs and sneezes in a tissue is another great way to contain your germs. When using a tissue, or if you do cough into your hands, try to clean them as soon as you can afterwards.
- Try not to touch your face a lot, especially your eyes, nose, and mouth, as these are places where germs can get in and out.
- Remind kids that there are some things that they shouldn’t share with friends, like water bottles, food, utensils or other items that may go in their mouths.
- If your child is sick, try to keep him/her home so that he/she doesn’t spread germs to others at school. Keep your child home until his/her fever has been gone for 24 hours.
- The CDC also recommends that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot, and a flu shot is one of the best ways to protect yourself and your family from the flu. The Chatham County Public Health Department is working with Chatham County Schools to offer flu vaccine to students at school in October.
Last but not least, while we’re on the subject of preventing the spread of disease in school, here are the lists of required and recommended vaccines for children in school in North Carolina. If you have a child entering Kindergarten or 6th grade, these are helpful resources.