By Alan Sorensen
The flu season is fast approaching and area seniors and others at risk are urged as part of National Adult Immunization Awareness Week Oct. 10-16 to get inoculated as soon as possible.
The Hill County Health Department in the basement of the courthouse will begin its adult immunization campaign Monday, Oct. 18. The office will be open all week from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
The cost per flu shot is $7.50 and Medicare will be billed for qualifying seniors, county nurse Bonnie Blevins said.
The vaccine prepared for this flu season will include protection from A/Beijing/262/95, A/Sydney 5/97 and B/Yamanashi/166/98 strains of flu. Protection develops one to two weeks after the shot and may last up to one year.
Influenza is a serious disease, Blevins said, that is spread by virus from infected people to the nose or throat of others. The United States flu season runs from November to March or April.
Symptoms of flu include fever, sore throat, cough, headache, chills, muscle aches. People of any age can get influenza, Blevins said, and most people are ill with flu for only a few days. Some victims may get much sicker, though, and require hospitalization.
Influenza causes thousands of deaths nationwide each year, mostly among the elderly. The vaccine can prevent the flu.
People who are risk for getting a serious case of the flu or of suffering from complications should get the vaccine. People who have regular contact with flu victims also should be immunized.
People who are particular risk include:
Everyone 65 or older;
Residents of long-term care facilities that house people with chronic medical conditions;
Anyone who has a serious long-term health problem (heart, kidney or lung disease, metabolic diseases such as diabetes, asthma, anemia, and other blood disorders);
Anyone with a weakened immune system;
Anyone 6 months to 18 years on long-term aspirin treatment who could develop Reye Syndrome if infected with flu;
Women who will be more than 3 months pregnant during the flu season;
People who provide essential community services;
Travelers to the southern hemisphere or tropics between April and September;
Students and staff at schools and colleges to prevent outbreaks;
Anyone who wants a reduced chance of catching influenza.
Some people should consult their doctors before getting the flu vaccine. Anyone who has ever had a serious allergic reaction to eggs or a previous dose of flu vaccine or has a history of Guillain-Barr Syndrome should talk with a doctor.
Also, anyone who is moderately or severely ill at the time the shot is scheduled should usually wait until he recovers before getting his shot.
To learn more about influenza and immunization, call the Hill County Health Department at 265-548, ext. 266. Or ask your doctor, call the CDC toll free at 1-800-232-2522, or visit the National Immunization Programs website at http:/www. cdc.gov/nip.