LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Ark. Health Dept.) - It's time to get your flu vaccine! While there is little flu activity right now, it is expected to increase in the coming weeks and months. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone aged six months and older get a flu vaccine every year. The vaccine protects against flu viruses that research indicates will cause the most illness during the upcoming season.
Beginning Monday and continuing through the third week of November, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) is providing seasonal flu vaccine at mass flu clinics in every county. A mass flu clinic is a day-long event during which the community comes together to vaccinate as many people as possible. ADH staff, health professionals, and volunteers work as a team to provide vaccinations. Some clinics offer "drive-thrus" - you don't even leave your car.
A complete list of mass flu clinic sites is available here: http://www.healthy.arkansas.gov/programsServices/infectiousDisease/Immunizations/SeasonalFlu/Pages/MassFluClinics.aspx
Flu is a sickness that infects the nose, throat, and lungs and is caused by the influenza virus. If you're young and healthy, the flu vaccine should be 60 to 90 percent effective in preventing illness.
Dr. Nate Smith, state health officer and ADH director, said, "Getting an annual flu vaccination is the best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu."
Certain people are at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu. This includes older people, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), and people who live in facilities like nursing homes.
Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. Between 1976 and 2006, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.
If you have insurance, the ADH will ask your insurance company to pay for the cost of giving the vaccine. Bring your insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or ARKids cards with you so that we can file with your insurance company. If you do not have insurance or your insurance company does not pay for vaccines, the vaccine will be available at no charge to you.
Children eight years and younger may need a second dose of vaccine for full protection. A health care provider can help determine if the second dose is needed. Parents will need to contact a local ADH health unit or health care provider to see if vaccine is available and take their children in for a second dose four weeks after the first vaccination.
Over the last 50 years, flu vaccines have been shown to be safe. An average of 100 million doses of flu vaccine is used in the United States each year, and flu vaccines have an excellent safety record.
The flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. Some people may have a mild reaction to the flu vaccine. Reactions might include mild soreness and redness near the site of the shot and perhaps a little fever or slight headache. The nasal spray vaccine's side effects may include runny nose, headache, and wheezing.
There are very few medical reasons to avoid the flu vaccine. They include life-threatening reactions such as anaphylaxis to a previous dose of the flu vaccine or to eggs, or a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome. People with a non-life threatening egg allergy may be vaccinated but need to see a doctor specializing in allergies.
Flu symptoms include fever over 100 degrees, headache, extreme fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, and occasionally stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
The flu virus is spread through coughing or sneezing and by touching a hard surface with the virus on it and then touching the nose or mouth. The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year.
For more information, go to www.healthy.arkansas.gov or www.flu.gov.