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Health officials: Get flu shot

Local and state health officials are urging Alabama residents to get vaccinated against the influenza virus this year.

Officials with the Alabama Department of Public Health said there should be plenty of flu vaccine to go around this year.

Dr. Jonathan Southworth, physician at the Brewton Medical Center, said his office has the vaccine now and is ready to immunize.

“We started with the high-risk patients, but we have enough to go around right now,” Southworth said. “We will probably have some flu clinics later on, but anyone can come by the office. Tell the nurse that you want the shot and you won’t have to see the doctor. Come and get the shot and that is all you have to do.”

Ricky Elliott with the Escambia County Health Department said his office has already lined up the first clinic, which will be on Monday from 8 to 11 a.m.

“We will schedule flu clinics when we have a larger amount of the vaccine,” Elliott said. “We hope to get enough that we would have the drive-through set up again, but right now there hasn’t been that much come in to the health department.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the full impact of the vaccine every season.

“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year in the United States between 5 and 20 percent of the population is infected with influenza, about 36,000 people died and more than 200,000 are hospitalized because of influenza complications,” said Dr. Donald Williamson, state health officer.

The vaccine being offered this year protects against three influenza viruses including the H1N1 virus. Those who were vaccinated for the H1N1 virus last year still need to receive the seasonal vaccine in order to have protection from all three viruses.

Annual influenza vaccination is recommended for all persons aged six months and older to protect against disease which usually occurs from November to March in Alabama.

The vaccine is highly recommended by the CDC for those who are at higher risk of influenza related illnesses. Those are children aged six months through 18 years; adults aged 50 and older; adults and children with chronic problems; women who will be pregnant during the flu season; residents of nursing homes and long-time care facilities; people who are immuno-suppressed; health-care workers and caregivers who have contact with children six months old and adults who are over the age of 50.

Other people who wish to reduce the chance of contacting the influenza virus should get a flu-shot. Symptoms of the flu include, fever and respiratory symptoms such as cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches, and often extreme fatigue.

The public is also reminded to practice infection controls such as covering your mouth and nose with a tissue or cloth when coughing and sneezing, washing hands frequently and staying at home when sick to prevent the spread of the virus.