Helping with the goal of having all people 6 months and older receive an influenza vaccination this year, the Hill County Health Department is holding all-day flu clinics every Tuesday this month.
For the first time, state and federal health officials are urging everyone to receive a vaccination for influenza. This is following work by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is in the aftermath of a global influenza pandemic declared by the United Nations’ World Health Organization last year.
The pandemic, declared controlled earlier this year, was due to the discovery of a new strain of the flu virus, the H1N1 virus, commonly called the swine flu.
Because of the lack of immunity to the new strain, health officials worked to prevent a massive spread of H1N1. Health officials credit a high level of vaccinations and a massive education effort with keeping the spread of the virus down.
Last year, as the strain was detected too late to be included in the standard influenza vaccinations, a second vaccination against H1N1 was required.
This year, the strain is included in the standard vaccine and only one vaccination is required.
The seasonal influenza vaccine is updated each year to reflect changes and mutations in influenza viruses.
The health department will provide vaccinations each Tuesday in November from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., including throught the lunch hour. The clinics will be at the health department, 302 4th Ave., in Havre.
Standard vaccinations, for people ages 6 months and up, are $25 for adults and $14 for children up to 18 years old.
A discount is available for the flu mist, taken nasally, for people ages 2 through 49. The mist, normally $30, will cost $25 at the Tuesday clinics only.
The health department accepts insurance, including Medicare, Healthy Montana Kids/Plus, Montana Unified School Trust, Employee Benefit Management Services and Blue Cross Blue Shield, as well as cash and checks at the clinics. People are asked to bring their insurance cards to the clinics.
The vaccine also is available through health care providers, clinics, some pharmacies and through some places of employment.
The state Department of Public Health and Human Services in October emphasized the importance of vaccinnating all people at greater risk for severe illness if infected, although all are urged to receive the vaccine.
People most at risk for complications are women who are pregnant and people who have chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, asthma, or other conditions that reduce immunity to influenza. Other people who are at higher risk of infection or are likely to spread influenza viruses to vulnerable populations are health care workers and caregivers.
Children also are considered to be at higher risk in Montana due to a lower-than average rate of vaccination in that age group.
Although the vaccine is not approved for infants younger than 6 months, people who care for that age group are urged to be vaccinated.
Health officials also recommend that people take steps to prevent infection, including covering coughs and sneezes, hand washing frequently, and staying home when sick to prevent infecting others.
For more information on ways poeple can protect themselves and others from influenza, people can contact their local health department or visit the DPHHS website at http://www.dphhs.mt.gov.