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Clinic inoculates 500 residents

Decatur County Health Department inoculated more than 500 local residents against seasonal flu on Sept. 18 in the second drive-through flu shot clinic to be offered in Bainbridge by the Public Health agency.

“Our first drive-through last year was a success, and this year’s drive-through built on that success,” said Decatur County Health Department County Nurse Manager Sherry Hutchins. “Once again, our community partners included the Decatur County Emergency Management Agency, the Fire Department, the Sheriff’s Department, Public Safety, the Emergency Medical Service, the Salvation Army and nursing students from the Bainbridge College ADN program,” she added.

“The support of these institutions is an invaluable asset. Our entire community reaps the benefits from such a strong team effort.”

This year, the health department offered seasonal flu shots earlier than usual, and at a reduced fee, to help encourage residents to get vaccinated, Hutchins said.

“The strategy, combined with the convenience of getting vaccinated without leaving your car, paid off,” she said. “We administered 509 shots via the drive-through. It took approximately six to eight minutes to complete the process.

Hutchins said it is more important than ever to get vaccinated against seasonal flu this year because Pandemic H1N1 flu is already circulating.

“As flu season hits, we can expect to see several more strains of flu circulate. So, while the seasonal flu vaccine won’t prevent you from getting H1N1 flu, it can prevent you from getting co-infected with regular flu plus H1N1.”

Mutations can occur when people are infected with two different strains of flu, resulting in a disease that can be more dangerous or resistant to anti-viral medications, she explained. Health departments throughout Southwest Health District have run out of their first shipment of seasonal flu vaccine, but more is expected to arrive in November, Hutchins said. Meanwhile, Decatur County Health Department will be gearing up to offer the H1N1 vaccine, which is expected to arrive in October.

“We are still waiting to learn when we will receive it and how much we will receive,” she said. “At this point, we still don’t know if our first batch of H1N1 vaccine will be in the form of nasal mist or if it will be injected. We do expect to receive a limited supply, so those who are at high risk of complications from H1N1 will be the first priority for vaccination.”

High priority populations include:

 Pregnant women because they are at higher risk of complications and can potentially provide protection to infants who cannot be vaccinated;

 Household contacts and caregivers for children younger than six months of age because younger infants are at higher risk of influenza-related complications and cannot be vaccinated;

 Health care and emergency medical services personnel with direct patient contact because infections among health care workers have been reported and this can be a potential source of infection for vulnerable patients. Also, increased absenteeism in this population could reduce health care system capacity;

 Children from six months through 4 years of age;

 Children 5 through 18 years who have chronic medical conditions;

For more information about the flu, call the Decatur County Health Department at 248-3055 or go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org. Information is also available toll-free at the Flu Hotline, 1-888-829-2255.