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Seasonal flu vaccine supply replenished

Good news for individuals not yet immunized against seasonal flu: All 14 health departments in Southwest Health District have been restocked with vaccine and the reduced price of $20 per dose is still in effect.

“We offered regular seasonal flu vaccine earlier than usual this year and ran out quickly. We’ve been waiting for more to be produced and shipped,” said Southwest Health District Health Director Jacqueline Grant.

Delivery was delayed because vaccine manufacturers had switched from producing seasonal flu vaccine to producing vaccine for the H1N1 pandemic.

“H1N1 has been getting the most attention lately, but other flu viruses are also circulating, and this is the time of year when influenza begins to spread,” Grant said. “A seasonal flu shot offers no protection against H1N1 infection, but it will help prevent co-infections.”

Seasonal flu typically causes around 36,000 deaths and around 200,000 hospitalizations in the United States annually, she said.

This year’s seasonal flu vaccine contains three virus strains that researchers anticipate will cause the most illness during the flu season. They are A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1)-like virus; A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like virus and B/Brisbane 60/2008-like antigens.

Anyone who wants to reduce the chance of catching the seasonal flu can get vaccinated. But certain populations face greater risk of developing serious complications from it and Public Health experts recommend they be vaccinated. They include:

 Children aged six months to 19 years;

 Pregnant women;

 People 50 and older;

 People of any age with chronic medical conditions like asthma or heart disease;

 People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;

 People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including health care workers and household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu;

 Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children less than six months of age (children too young to be vaccinated).

Those who should talk to their doctor before getting a flu shot include anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to eggs or a previous flu shot, a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome or is running a fever, Grant added.

She said that influenza usually starts suddenly and may include fever (usually high), cough, sore throat, headache, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, and body aches. Diarrhea and vomiting may also occur and are usually more common in children than adults.

The Southwest Health District also received around 16,000 doses of H1N1 vaccine earlier in the week, so county health departments have both seasonal flu vaccine and H1N1 vaccine available. For now, only individuals in five target populations are being vaccinated against H1N1. However, Public Health anticipates the CDC and the state will open up the vaccine to more population groups soon.

“Remember, this year it is more important than ever to get your seasonal flu vaccination,” Grant said.

For more information about flu shots, contact your local county health department or go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org.