Nikki Carlson Havre Daily News firstname.lastname@example.org
It may be slightly painful, but one little shot could save many people from going to the hospital during the flu season. And people who are afraid of needles now have a new option to combat the flu. A nasal mist vaccination can be administered to people between 2 to 49 years of age. The nurse simply squirts the vaccine up each nostril, and the patient sniffs it down their throat. However, Registered Nurse and Director of Nursing Riki Ross said the nasal mist is not recommended for women who are pregnant or those who are breast feeding. "This is for (other) people who don't want to get a shot," Ross said. On Tuesday, the Hill County Health Department held its annual Hill County Flu Clinic at the District 4 Human Resources Development Council building from 11 a.m. to 6 p. m. Ross said the flu clinics are being held earlier this year. The Centers for Disease Control pushed for mid-October clinics this year because three types of influenza strains are being vaccinated Ross said, adding that last year's flu clinic was held at the end of October. "They wanted us to give vaccinations as soon as it arrived. It's a stronger flu virus strain this year," she said. "The vaccination is stronger this year. The vaccine changes every year." The vaccination is a tri-strain flu vaccine, and the purpose of the clinics are to distribute the vaccine to a large number of people in the community in a short period of time for the overall protection of the community's health. In years past, there wasn't an ample supply of flu vaccines available for people. That is not the case this year. In fact, Ross said pregnant women and infants and toddlers between the ages of 6 to 35 months are at the top of the list of those who should get the vaccine. Others on the vaccination list are household contacts with infants less than 6 months old, which include day care providers, baby sitters and school teachers; children 3 to 18 years old with high-risk conditions such as asthma; 19 to 64 year olds with high-risk conditions; people older than 65 years of Age; children 3 to 18 years old without high-risk conditions; and healthy adults between the ages 19 to 64. The flu clinic is not a free service. Ross said most medical insurance companies can be billed by the Health Department at the clinics. She added that if people are allergic to eggs, they should not get a vaccination because of an additive in the vaccine. Ross said influenza is a "respiratory illness" and some of the symptoms are coughing, sneezing, upper respiratory infection and bronchitis. There is also a new vaccination available for parents with worries about the vaccination resulting in their child becoming autistic. "We do have a vaccine that doesn't have thimerosol in it," she said. At about 2:15 p.m. on Tuesday, Ross said about 130 people had attended the flu clinic, with the average age ranging from 45 to 65. Today until 3 p.m., there is another Flu Clinic at HRDC for the public. Ross' goal is to have 500 people show up for the clinic, but is hoping that at least 200 will attend. "We have enough nursing staff to do 200 easy without waiting in lines," she said. "We're on our way to my goal, in fact it looks hopeful that we can exceed it." By Tuesday evening Ross realized 328 people attended the flu clinic. "I would at least like to see 350 (today)," she said. Ross said she is also hoping that more children and athletes will stop by the flu clinic. "It's a really good time to get your high school and college athletes vaccinated because you want them to be at their peak and do their best," she said. On Thursday, the Health Department will host a flu clinic at the North Central Senior Citizens Center and at Havre Day Activity Center. A registered nurse will provide vaccinations for home-bound people on Friday. For the first time the Health Department will also have a weekend day clinic on Saturday at Gary & Leo's Fresh Foods from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. for employees and the community. "We're going to see if a weekend day works better for people," she said. People who cannot attend the flu clinics can call the Health Department at 265-5481, ext. 266, to make an appointment on Mondays, Wednesdays or Fridays. "There have been no flu cases in Montana yet," said Hill County Health Department public health nurse Bridget Kallenberger. Kallenberger said the NoroVirus, also known as the NorWalk virus, has been around since the summer and is still lingering around. The NoroVirus has many of the same symptoms as influenza. She said it is still contagious for others two weeks after people are feeling better. "People need to wash their hands all the time," she said. "Also (with the holiday season approaching) no cooking for other people." Kallenberger added that the countertops, doorknobs and any surface that a someone with the NoroVirus has afflicted should be cleaned with bleach and water to kill the germs. "Mix a fresh bottle of water and bleach," she said.