Wednesday, September 24, 2014
In this struggling economy few people can afford to miss work or a paycheck. But seasonal influenza poses a serious risk. The highly contagious respiratory illness afflicts an average of 5-20% of our nation's population each year resulting in 36,000 annual deaths and 200,000 yearly hospitalizations.
To help residents protect themselves and their loved ones from seasonal flu the Atlantic County Division of Public Health is once again providing 11 public flu shot clinics for those 18 years and older beginning Friday, September 26 through Thursday, November 6. There is a $15 fee for flu shots. Pneumonia shots will also be available to eligible residents 65 years and older for $25. There is no out-of-pocket cost for either shot for residents with Medicare Part B coverage who present their card at the time of vaccination.
As an added convenience, residents may schedule a flu shot appointment online at www.aclink.org. Appointments are not required; walk-ins will continue to be welcome at all locations.
"Most residents receive their flu shot within 15 minutes of arrival at our clinics, however, we appreciate the value of people's time. By offering appointments we may attract those who might not otherwise find the time for a flu shot," explained Dennis Levinson, County Executive.
Flu season can be as unpredictable as the virus, but the highest number of cases are typically reported between October and April. The 2014-15 vaccine will protect against three to four influenza virus strainsthat research indicates will be most prevalent during the season.
"Flu vaccine cannot prevent all cases of flu, but it is the best defense against the virus," stated Public Health Officer Patricia Diamond. "Because it may take up to two weeks for the antibodies to develop in your body, the sooner you get a shot, the better. Protection lasts several months to a year."
Flu symptoms may include fever, headaches, extreme fatigue, chest discomfort, cough, muscle aches and pains. Complications from the virus may include: bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.
The effects of influenza are especially concerning to adults over age 65, those with chronic medical conditions, women who will be pregnant during flu season, healthcare providers and home caregivers who provide direct patient care. These individuals are strongly urged to receive a flu shot. Parents and guardians of children 6 months to 18 years of age should consult their child's physician.
To further help prevent the spread of the influenza virus, cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently, and clean commonly shared or frequently touched items. If you contract the flu drink plenty of liquids, get plenty of rest and contact your healthcare provider.
For a complete schedule of public flu clinics visit www.aclink.org/publichealth where you may also schedule an appointment and learn more about seasonal flu. For additional information call the Division of Public Health at (609) 645-5933.