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Get your flu shot by mid-October, officials say


The Exponent Telegram

CLARKSBURG, W.Va.  — The best time to get the flu shot is before the end of October, officials suggest.

With early cases typically arising in November, United Hospital Center infection preventionist Annette Payne said it’s best to get the vaccine by mid-October.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention “would love for people to have the vaccine by the end of October,” she said, “keeping in mind the vaccine takes at least two weeks for you to develop the antibodies.”

She said flu season runs from October through May.

“We all know that November brings family get-togethers and Thanksgiving and travel. And you’re shopping so you’re out there and you’re more at risk,” she said.

When the vaccine is developed, the makers try to predict the most common strains, but not every strain is covered. Still, Payne said it’s wise to get a shot.

“It can help prevent the complications; you may not be as sick as you would be,” she said.

Complications typically arise in those who are immunocompromised or those who have other diseases.

“It’s going to play upon their ability to fight that virus because of their other chronic diseases they may have,” she said.

Flu can lead to secondary complications that can be fatal, said Margaret Howe-White, Harrison County Health Department nursing director.

“I cannot stress how important it is that everyone needs to get a flu shot,” Howe-White said.

Women who are pregnant, people with suppressed immune systems and those with underlying respiratory problems, such as pneumonia, are at greater risk for complications of the flu, she said.

The H1N1 strain will attack the normal healthy population as well, she added, and the flu vaccine takes care of that concern, too.

Howe-White said there are two vaccines available (not including the higher dose vaccine for those age 65 and older). The trivalent vaccine is for two A strains, one of which is H1N1, and one B strain. The quadrivalent includes two A strains and two B strains. (According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, Influenza A viruses are divided into subtypes based on two surface proteins, whereas Influenza B viruses are divided into strains and lineages.)

“They take the most prevalent viruses from the previous year, and that’s what they make (the vaccines) out of,” she said.

Payne stated it’s also important for people around higher risk individuals to get the flu shot.

Prevention includes regular cleaning of highly touched surface areas, such as toilet handles, door knobs and cabinet handles, she said, noting the virus can live for up to 24 hours. She said to avoid touching the facial T-zone — eyes, nose and mouth — with dirty hands. For this, she recommends a hand sanitizer that is 60-95 percent alcohol, if there is no access to soap and water.

“When you come home, wash your hands — kind of get rid of all that bio-burden you’re bringing into your home,” Payne said.

Vaccines are available at the Harrison County Health Department, Howe-White said, with more batches coming Sept. 7. Walk-ins are welcome, she said. On-site clinics will be provided for organizations or businesses that request them.

“Wash your hands. Cover your cough. Stay home if you’re sick. See your physician if you don’t improve,” Howe-White added.

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