AREA -- The Oregon County Health Department now has free flu vaccine for children 6 months to 18 years old.
Oregon County Health Department Administrator Shelia Russell said the vaccinations are available to all children, even those in Arkansas.
The Thayer Health Department office is open Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and the Alton office is open five days a week, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
"Influenza is a contagious disease which is caused by a virus. It is spread from person to person mostly through the nose and throat," Russell said. Other illnesses can have the same symptoms and are often mistaken for the flu. "But only an illness caused by the flu virus is actually the flu," Russell said.
She said anyone can get the flu, but rates of infection are highest in children. For most people it lasts only a few days. but can cause fever, sore throat, chills, fatigue, cough, headache and muscle aches.
She said the flu can lead to pneumonia and can also cause high fever and seizures in children. "On average 226,000 people are hospitalized every year because of the flu and 36,000 people die," she said.
She said it takes up to two weeks for the protection to develop after the child is vaccinated.
Russell said it is recommended that all children between the ages of 6 months and five-years get a flu shot. It is also recommended that people who live with children in this age group or are caregivers of this age of children get a flu shot. Any child from 6 months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatments should also get a flu shot because they can develop Reye Syndrome if they get the flu, Russell said.
"We can no longer bill Medicare or Medicaid for flu shots in our office. We can administer the vaccine but it will cost $20 per shot. The doctors office can still bill Medicare of Medicaid for the shots," she said.
She said after a child is given the vaccine parents and caregivers should look for reactions to the shot.
"Any unusual conditions, such as high fever or behavior changes may be a reaction to the shot. Signs of a serious allergic reaction can include difficulty breathing, hoarseness or wheezing, hives, paleness, a fast heart beat or dizziness," Russell said.