Town offers flu immunization in October

Fall may only just beginning to make its presence felt, but the town is already alerting residents to be on their guard against influenza, which is better known by the more common name “the flu.”

Influenza is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that are spread when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes or touches a surface handled by others. It can be mild or severe and infects millions of Americans every year. On average, more than 226,000 people are hospitalized annually, which includes 20,000 children under the age of five. About 24,000 people die from complications of the flu yearly.

The best way to prevent getting the flu is to get vaccinated. It takes up to two weeks after vaccination for immunity to develop in the majority of adults. So, to ensure proper protection from the seasonal flu virus, which can begin to circulate early in the fall, the Department of Health has scheduled immunization clinics throughout the month of October.

People nine-years-old and older will be eligible to receive influenza vaccine at the town clinics. The Fluzone High-Dose vaccine, made especially for people 65 years of age and older, will also be offered at clinics.

 

The flu shots contain three viruses but the ones in the shot have already been killed so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. However, some minor side effects that could occur like low grade fever, soreness and aches.

Influenza can affect anyone, but those 65-years-old or older have a higher risk for complications from influenza. Usually people experience a rapid onset of high fever, although not all people do, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, chills, headache, fatigue and body aches.

Town Director of Health, Caroline Baisley said, “Getting vaccinated for seasonal influenza is the best way to provide protection against circulating influenza viruses. Although many take advantage of getting vaccinated early, getting vaccinated later in the season can also be beneficial since protection against the virus will last.”

At the clinics, people 65 or older must bring their Medicare Advantage ID Card/Traditional Medicare Part B Card or a fee of $34 will be charged for influenza immunizations. The charge for pneumonia immunization is $50. Medicare Advantage providers do not cover pneumonia immunizations received at public clinics. Medicaid will not be accepted. Credit cards will not be accepted. People between the ages of 9 and 64 will be charged a $34 fee for influenza immunizations and/or $50 for pneumonia immunizations. Checks should be made payable to the Town of Greenwich and, if paying with cash, exact change will be appreciated.

The traditional flu season begins early October and runs through May in most years and sustained influenza transmission is usually not seen before January or later. People at high risk include children under the age of five, pregnant women, adults over 65 and people with underlying medical conditions. Morbid obesity is now recognized as a medical risk factor.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that everyone six-months-old and older should be immunized but that it is especially important for the following groups to receive flu vaccine: People with underlying chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, neurological disorders and immunosuppression, that require frequent or ongoing medical management, pregnant women, close contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children and adolescents at high-risk, adult household contacts of persons at high risk due to medical conditions and healthcare workers and people living in long term care facilities.

Children under the age of nine will not receive immunization at the town clinics since two doses of flu vaccine will be needed for children who will be receiving flu vaccination for the first time. The second dose is given four weeks after the first dose. Parents are advised to contact their pediatricians for an appointment and dose requirements for this age group.

There are people who should not get the seasonal flu shot including people who had a severe allergic reaction to eggs, people who have had a severe reaction to a flu vaccine in the past or are allergic to other components of the vaccine, people who previously developed Gullain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of getting a flu shot and children less than six months of age. People who have a moderate or severe illness with a fever should wait until their symptoms lessen before receiving a vaccination

“Although the single best way to prevent the flu or pneumonia is to get vaccinated, there are other ways to protect yourself from respiratory illnesses,” states Director of Family Health, Deborah Travers.

Those steps include avoiding close contact with people who are sick, keeping your distance from others when you are sick, staying home from work or school when you are sick for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, washing your hands with soap and water frequently, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth since germs are spread this way and getting plenty of sleep, water, healthy food and exercise

Call the Department of Health flu information line for up-to-date information at 203-622-3774 or visit Greenwichct.org.

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