'Tis the season for flu vaccinations
The sneezin' season is upon us - flu, that is.
Each year, the influenza season brings a variety of uncertainties, the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) reports. And last year was no exception.
Plenty of flu vaccine was available but most of the circulating influenza strains were not optimally matched to the vaccine.
The influenza season peaked in late February and shortly thereafter, three children died due to complications from influenza. The children ranged in age from 5 to 12 and had not been vaccinated.
This year, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is recommending annual vaccination for all children ages 6 months through 18 years.
The reasoning behind the recommendations: Evidence that influenza increases school absenteeism, antibiotic use, medical care visits and parental work loss.
The good news: Influenza vaccine is effective and safe for school-age children.
Children age 6 months through 8 years who are receiving the influenza vaccine for the first time will need two doses, four weeks apart.
The 2008-09 vaccine targets three strains of influenza, all three different from last year's.
Influenza - "flu" - is a contagious respiratory disease; it's not the stomach flu. The virus attacks the nose, throat and lungs.
The symptoms come quickly - in the form of fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache, extreme fatigue, nasal congestion and body aches. The symptoms may be severe, requiring bed rest for several days.
A cold usually stays in the head, while the flu affects the body. A child with a cold will generally keep up normal activities; a youngster with the flu often feels too sick to play.
Locally, the vaccine arrived early this year, with no shortage anticipated, according to Chris Broeker, St. Joseph's community health manager.
In addition to children, the vaccine is recommended for adults 50 and older, pregnant women and those at risk of complications from influenza due to long-term health problems.
It's advised for those with a weakened immune system due to HIV/AIDs and those undergoing cancer treatment.
In general, the influenza vaccine is recommended for anyone who wants to reduce the likelihood of becoming sick with the flu - or spreading the illness to others.
It takes up to two weeks for protection to develop after the shot, lasting up to a year.
Flu shots will be given to adults 19 and older from 10:30 a.m. to noon Thursday, Dec. 4 at the Laporte School and from 12:30 to 3 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 17 at the Akeley Senior Center. Cost is $20 or Medicare.
St. Joseph's Community Health will be offering flu shots from 12:30 to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 10 at the Community Dental Clinic, 205 Pleasant Ave. The shots will be given to ages 18 and older. Medical Assistance and Minnesota Care will be accepted or $20 for others.
Flu shots for children and adolescents are available the first and third Wednesdays by appointment at the Innovis Health clinic. Call 732-2859 to set up an appointment. Or the vaccinations are available through family physicians.
As of Monday, there were no confirmed cases of influenza in Minnesota. Flu tends to peak in January and February.
For more information on influenza, head to the MDH Web site, www.health.state. mn.us. On the upper left is "hot topics;" click on influenza.