September 23, 2010
Area Flu Shot Clinics and Additional Flu Information
Portsmouth Regional Hospital, Maxim Health Systems and the Fox Run Mall are partnering to present flu clinics.
The clinics will be held at the Fox Run Mall on Tuesday, October 19th from 11-7, behind Center Court in front of Sears! Everyone age 4 and up is eligible.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is encouraging anyone who wants to reduce their risk of getting the flu to get the vaccine, including:
- Young children
- Pregnant women
- People with chronic health conditions
- People aged 50 years and older
- Anyone who wants to stay healthy
Targeting Influenza, Not Colds
It's easy to put off getting a flu shot – especially for reasons that are not valid. That's where misconceptions play such a strong role.
"People have a lot of misunderstanding about the 'flu' and flu shots," says infectious disease specialist David Itkin, MD, Portsmouth Regional Hospital's epidemiologist. "In reality, the evidence is overwhelming that flu shots are safe and effective at preventing illness. And they save lives."
PRH Infection Control Practitioner Martha Wassell, MT, adds, "Some 35,000 people die each year from complications of influenza – despite the availability of effective protection. A problem is that people misconstrue the word ‘flu' and shy away from flu shots."
Influenza is a specific category of illness, caused by viruses that usually manifest as a respiratory illness. Traditional symptoms include the rapid onset of headache and fever, body aches, a dry, hacking cough and sometimes nasal congestion. Influenza easily results in respiratory disease, sometimes progressing to pneumonia. That's where its danger is most prominent – most of the deaths are related to complications of influenza, not of influenza itself.
There are many other viruses around that can make you miserable, especially in winter, but they aren't influenza and they aren't prevented by flu vaccines. Colds are caused by viruses that typically result in congestion and coughing – but not the fever, body aches and secondary infections like pneumonia. The same is true of "stomach flu" viruses that cause gastrointestinal problems. They may make you nauseous but they don't carry the risks of secondary complications.
"A flu shot takes as long as two weeks to become effective," Ms. Wassell says. "If someone experiences illness right after getting a flu shot, it's almost certainly coincidental – or it's a virus that isn't influenza."
Anticipating Flu Strains
"Each year, the World Health Organization works to identify the strains of influenza virus that are most likely to be major problems in the coming influenza season," Ms. Wassell notes. "The vaccines are developed against them. If a different strain should break out, the vaccine won't be effective against it. But the best estimate is that the strains identified are the ones we most need protection from. Colds and stomach viruses aren't in the mix.
"An important misconception is that getting a shot can give you the flu," she adds. "It cannot – the vaccine uses dead virus to cause your body to produce antibodies to the flu. Flu mist does contain a bit of live virus but it's dilute and engineered in such a way that it cannot give you the flu."
Another common misconception is that people with weakened immune systems should not get flu shots, Dr. Itkin notes. In fact, he says, they are the ones who need them the most.
Considered particularly at risk are people aged 65 and older, children between six months and five years of age, adults and children aged six months and older with medical issues that compromise the immune system, pregnant women and healthcare workers who have frequent contact with ill patients. Ms. Wassell notes that an important reason for vaccination, especially in the healthcare setting, is to prevent the spread of influenza to those in high risk groups.
"Those are the priority groups," Dr. Itkin says, "but flu shots are for anyone who wants increased protection. The best way to deal with the flu this winter is prevent it in the first place. And absolutely the best way to prevent it is to be vaccinated with a flu shot."