Seasonal flu season is near, and it's also time to get your flu shot. On Nov. 10, the Fulton County Health Unit is practicing its local mass dispensing plan and will be providing free flu shots at Salem High School gym from 9 a.m. until noon. The Fulton County Health Unit is part of 81 health units statewide that are participating in one-day mass flu vaccination clinics.
The purpose of the clinic is to provide free flu vaccine to Fulton County citizens and also to exercise the county's mass dispensing plan, designed to insure that health professionals and volunteers are prepared to vaccinate or dispense medication to a large population in a short period of time. If Arkansas were ever to experience pandemic influenza or similar disaster, it might be necessary to distribute medications to many citizens quickly. Dr. Jim Bozeman, Fulton County Health Officer, said, "The time to practice dispensing large amounts of medication is now, before we have a disaster. It's important for Fulton County citizens to get their flu shot to protect them from influenza this year. It's also important to exercise our County Mass Dispensing Plan.
If a disaster were to occur, public health response teams, healthcare providers, county government and emergency management would need to mobilize quickly and activate their emergency response plans. This one-day event will provide an opportunity for public health professionals to collaborate with other emergency response teams and test the effectiveness of the plans in the event of a national or local flu pandemic or bioterrorism incident.
This exercise will include dispensing approximately 800 doses of free influenza vaccine to persons six months and older. Fulton County citizens are encouraged to participate in this practice event and receive a free flu shot.
The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) reports that there is an ample supply of flu vaccine this year. Arkansas is receiving 231,830 doses of the vaccine for use in local public health clinics. Vaccine has been delivered to all clinics and is available to the public free at the one-day mass dispensing clinics. After the clinics, shots will cost $20 per shot for anyone not enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid, or the Vaccines for Children Program.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and results in 25-50 million infections and 36,000 deaths in the United States each year.
Influenza symptoms include fever (usually high), headache, extreme fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose and occasionally stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
The influenza virus is spread through coughing or sneezing and by touching a hard surface with the virus on it and then touching your nose or mouth. The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year.
You cannot catch the flu from the vaccination. The vaccination uses a dead virus and cannot cause you to get the flu. The vaccine usually becomes effective two weeks after being administered; therefore, the best time to be vaccinated is October to November. However, it can still be beneficial to get the vaccine even later as typical flu season runs from mid-December through March.
Though all persons over 6 months of age should get a flu shot each year, those most at risk for influenza disease complications are: those in nursing homes; individuals over 50 years of age; persons with chronic diseases of the heart, lung, and kidneys; or who have diabetes, asthma, immunosuppression or severe forms of anemia; women who will be pregnant during flu season; or children and teens on long-term aspirin therapy. Children six months through five years of age should receive the flu vaccine due to the increased probability of severe illness in this age group. Daycare situations make these children especially vulnerable. Health care workers are also at greater risk for passing influenza infection on to high-risk individuals and should be vaccinated.
An influenza vaccination offers 70 percent to 90 percent protection against infection and can decrease the severity and side effects if you do get sick.
For more information on seasonal influenza, click on http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.