Summerville, GA: Get ready to roll up your sleeve three times for flu shots this fall. This year’s flu season is shaping up to be a very different one. Most people will need one shot for the regular seasonal flu and probably two more to protect against novel influenza A (H1N1) — more commonly known as swine flu or pandemic influenza. Public health officials are encouraging people to get vaccinated against seasonal flu as early as possible this year, just as soon as seasonal flu shots are available, and assure that immunity will not be lost before the end of the flu season by getting the flu shot earlier. “Getting a flu shot to protect against seasonal flu is a key component of our plan to deal with both seasonal flu viruses and the novel H1N1 virus, the flu viruses that will be circulating alongside each other this fall,” according to Northwest Georgia Public Health’s Dr. Wade Sellers. “Seasonal flu hasn’t even arrived, yet schools in South Georgia that started somewhat earlier than others in the state are already reporting groups of students being sent home with the high fever and sore throat associated with novel H1N1,” Sellers said. “We can expect the same thing to occur here in Northwest Georgia.” Sellers explained that his office has been communicating closely with school officials in the 10-county Northwest Georgia Public Health district to provide guidance about possible school closings and information about novel H1N1, including letters to be sent home to parents in English -more-and Spanish. “Our goal is to avoid school closure and disruption of classes unless there is a significant change in the severity of the illness associated with novel H1N1,” Sellers said. “People should begin thinking about getting a seasonal flu shot and looking for a source right now,” said Chattooga County Health Department Nurse Manager Mitzi Smith. “Everyone should get a seasonal flu shot, especially elderly people, health care workers and pregnant women.” According to Smith, the Chattooga County Health Department will give seasonal flu shots to the public on a walk-in basis at a special flu-shot clinic Tuesday, September 15, and Wednesday, September16 only, from 8 AM to 11:30 AM and from 1 PM to 4 PM at the health department. Medicare and Medicaid will be accepted, and clients are asked to bring their cards. Smith stressed that a limited quantity of doses of the influenza vaccine will be available on these two days due to “distribution channel problems and delays in getting the vaccine from the manufacturer.” Smith said the health department has historically given “six to seven hundred doses a day on the first couple of days of our flu-shot clinics; however, we will not have that many doses initially, so we may run out.” Smith said that after September 15th and 16th, “we will give flu shots on a walk-in basis as more doses become available.” She added that there may be wait times after the 15th and 16th because health department staff will have resumed their regular duties by then and no longer just giving flu shots. Northwest Georgia Public Health Public Information Officer Logan Boss stressed that seasonal flu is different than novel H1N1, the flu virus that erupted late last spring, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization in June, has continued to circulate in the US over the summer and which public health expects to become more pervasive — and possibly get much worse — this fall. Boss also noted that the seasonal flu vaccine will not protect against novel H1N1, however, it is still very important for people to take the regular seasonal flu vaccine. “The seasonal flu won’t take a vacation just because novel H1N1 has emerged,” Boss said. “Patients who have been vaccinated with seasonal flu vaccine will be less likely to take up hospital beds and the time and attention of health professionals who may be quite challenged by swine flu this fall.” People in high-risk groups who should get the seasonal flu vaccine now: Children 6 months to 19 years of age,people 50 years and older.people with chronic diseases such as diabetes or asthma,people living in nursing homes or long-term care homes,pregnant women,health care providers,people living with anyone in a high risk group and anyone whom wishes to avoid getting seasonal flu. Public health hopes to begin offering voluntary vaccinations against novel H1N1, or swine flu, as early as mid-October; however, “it could be sooner or later depending on if and when we receive the vaccine,” according to Boss. “Although testing is still underway, it appears that the swine flu vaccine will be most effective if given in two doses about three or four weeks apart,” Boss said. “We’ll know more about this after clinical trials have been completed and will announce that information just as soon as possible. Unlike with seasonal flu, the elderly with no underlying health conditions are not at high-risk from novel H1N1, although the vaccine will certainly be offered to them depending on availability,” Boss emphasized. Public health officials are planning to offer the novel H1N1 vaccine through local county health departments, including the Chattooga County Health Department, and are currently recruiting and registering partners such as physicians, pharmacists, hospitals, assisted-living facilities, jails and prisons to assist with distribution to the public. The novel H1N1 vaccine will also be made available to public and private schools, although these plans have not yet been finalized. People who should get the novel H1N1 or swine flu vaccine when available: Children 6 months to 24 years of age,pregnant women, people with chronic diseases such as diabetes or asthma,people caring for infants andhealth care providers.There are many things you can do to reduce your chances of getting flu or giving it to others: washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, covering your coughs and sneezes and staying out of crowded places. Practice other good health habits. Support your immune system. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food. Stay home when you feel sick and call a doctor or seek medical attention if it starts getting bad. “Regardless of hygiene, we’re all going to see a lot of flu in the coming months, Boss said. “If we’re lucky, novel H1N1 will stay as mild as it has been so far, and most of us won’t know anyone who dies from it — even though it could still kill several million people out of the 2-3 billion it infects worldwide. If we’re not so lucky, it will get more severe, causing many more deaths and major disruptions in the supply of goods and services. Public health and our community partners have been preparing for a possible severe pandemic for several years, and communities, companies, families and individuals should be making preparations of their own.” (please see http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/index.html).
There are things you can do now to prepare . Having certain items on hand will be useful if you need to stay home during an emergency such as a flu pandemic.
You should create an emergency supply kit that includes:
A 2-week supply of bottled water (one gallon per family member per day. Include extra water for pets)
At least a 2-week supply of nonperishable, ready-to-eat food such as canned fruits, meats and vegetables, protein bars, crackers, dry cereal, fruit juices, etc.
Pet food, if needed
Baby food or formula and diapers, if needed
Flashlight and extra batteries
Manual can opener, disposable plates and utensils, garbage bags, toilet paper, paper towels, feminine hygiene products, and hand sanitizer
Over-the-counter medications for fever, pain, diarrhea, coughs and colds
Please see http://www.pandemicflu.gov/plan/index.html for comprehensive information on pandemic planning and preparedness.
You should also:
Remind your family to practice healthy habits
Learn home treatment for flu. For comprehensive information on this subject, please refer to “Pandemic Influenza Preparation and Response: A Citizen’s Guide.” Get the guide by going here http://instedd.org/flumanual and
downloading the pdf file at the link at the bottom of the page.
Get a flu shot as soon as possible this year. It’s still the best way to protect yourself from seasonal flu.
Find out about your employer’s plans for a flu pandemic
Make backup plans for possible school or work closings and other disruptions
Have a copy of each family member’s medical history.
For more information on novel H1N1 and pandemic influenza, go to: