Routine seasonal flu vaccines are available a month early this year, according to local health department officials.
Health departments in the 10-county health district surrounding Athens (Barrow, Clarke, Elbert, Greene, Jackson, Madison, Morgan, Oconee, Oglethorpe, Walton) have flu vaccine available for the public.
The usual high-risk patients should get the shot as they have every year, according to health officials. People over 65 and people with high-risk conditions are at greatest risk for complications from seasonal flu.
However, as has been recommended for several years, the shot is also recommended for people of all ages from 6 months old and up. (The vaccine for children flu (VFC) shots for those 18 years of age and younger will arrive later – call the Madison County Health Department to verify that VFC flu shots have arrived.)
Flu shots remain at $25 and are covered by Medicare and Medicaid. No appointment is necessary, officials said, just walk in to your local health department. Hours are: Monday 8–11:30 a.m. and 1–6 p.m.; Tuesday through Thursday 8–11:30 a.m. and 1–3:30 p.m. and Friday 8 a.m.–12:30 p.m.
Officials say the shot contains antigens for the three flu viruses believed by experts to be the most likely to affect the United States this fall and winter. This seasonal flu vaccine does not protect against the pandemic strain of the new H1N1 (swine) flu virus, officials stress. Vaccine for that virus is being developed and tested but is not expected to be released until late in the fall.
Symptoms of flu include sudden onset of fever, headache, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches. In the U.S., flu usually peaks in late fall or winter.
In addition to getting the annual flu shot, public health officials recommend these steps to prevent the spread of flu: wash your hands, especially before you touch your face or eat, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available; don’t breathe where someone has just coughed or sneezed; cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper sleeve and stay home from work if you are sick to avoid spreading germs to others.
Information on other clinics can be found by calling the Public Health Information Line at 1-800-4PD-HELP, or by visiting www.PublicHealthAthens.com.