Health department accepting flu shot appointments; drive-thru clinic planned


The Jackson County Health Department is asking the public to help "SHOO the Flu."

That’s the theme of this year’s campaign to increase awareness and importance of the influenza vaccine. Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs.

The health department encourages everyone 6 months of age and older to receive a flu vaccine. In the 2018-19 influenza season, there were 126 influenza-related pediatric deaths nationwide, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

In Indiana, there were 113 influenza-associated deaths for all ages, according to the Indiana State Department of Health. Among those deaths, 79 were age 65 and older.

In Jackson County, there were five influenza-related deaths, up from one in 2017-18.

The local health department now has flu shots available, so people may call 812-522-6667 for an appointment.

There also will be a drive-thru flu clinic from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 18 at the health department, 801 W. Second St., Seymour.

Last year, the clinic was revived after several years’ absence. Mondee Scifres, nursing division director for the health department, said 51 people received a flu shot during the clinic.

Lin Montgomery, public health coordinator for the health department, said the drive-thru clinic is easy.

"It’s self-directed," she said. "We’re going to have nurses. You don’t even have to get out of the car. Just wear a sleeve that you can pull up, and the forms will be there. We can charge insurance or whatever we need to do for folks when they are here."

During the same time Oct. 18, people also can drop off unwanted or unused medications.

"They don’t have to do anything special," Montgomery said. "Just drive by and drop it in our garbage bag to dispose of them."

The cost of the flu shot remains the same this year, $32. Scifres said most insurances cover it.

"Even if they don’t have any insurance, the state provides free flu vaccines," she said. "There’s absolutely no reason why somebody should go without a flu shot."

People with egg allergies can receive any licensed, recommended age-appropriate influenza vaccine that is appropriate, Scifres said. Those with a history of severe egg allergy (other than hives after exposure to egg) should be vaccinated in a medical setting, supervised by a health care provider who is able to recognize and manage severe allergic reactions.

The health department has flu vaccines available in standard-dose and high-dose forms. The latter is intended for people 65 and older, contains four times the amount of antigen compared to the standard dose and creates a stronger immune response with better protection from the flu for that age population, Scifres said.

The mist (intranasal formulation) is available again this year but not at the health department. People should consult with their health care provider to ensure they receive the proper vaccine, Scifres said.

Each year, the influenza vaccine is made to protect against viruses that are likely to cause disease in the upcoming flu season. Even when the vaccine doesn’t exactly match these viruses, it’s still possible to receive some protective benefit from the influenza vaccine, Scifres said.

"It takes about two weeks for adequate protection to develop after vaccination, and protection lasts through the flu season," she said. "The myth that you can get the flu from the vaccine is misleading. The vaccine is an inactivated virus, therefore cannot infect anyone with the flu, but you could get common cold-type symptoms."

Influenza can spread directly from an infected person coughing or sneezing near a susceptible person or indirectly from hand transfer of germs from contaminated surfaces or objects to mucosal areas of the face, Scifres said. People who are more susceptible to the flu are the elderly, pregnant women, young children and those with underlying health conditions.

The 2018-19 influenza season in the United States was of moderate severity and lasted 21 weeks, making it the longest season in 10 years, Scifres said.

Influenza prevention strategies include administration of the flu vaccine (getting the flu shot), proper hand hygiene (with soap and water), proper cough etiquette (in the sleeve or tissue) and keeping sick family members at home to avoid spreading flu to others.

In 2018-19, the local health department gave 1,082 flu vaccines, which was up from 966 during the previous flu season, Scifres said. The goal for a grant the health department receives is 800.

"We always strive to go above and beyond that," Scifres said. "It does show more people getting it and being aware about the vaccine and how important it is."

With Jackson County having a population of more than 43,000 people, Montgomery said there are still a lot of people out there not getting their flu shot. She, however, realizes the health department’s number doesn’t include people who get the flu shot from their family doctor or a pharmacy.

For more than 50 years, hundreds of millions of Americans have safely received seasonal flu vaccines, and extensive research supports its safety, Scifres said.

"Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work or school due to the flu as well as prevent flu complications that can result in hospitalization and even death," she said. "The flu vaccine is the best way to help prevent influenza. Remember, the flu vaccine not only protects you, but it also can help protect those around you."

While parents bring their children to the health department for a flu shot, they also can get the school-required vaccines. The type of shots depends upon the child’s grade.

"If their parents would get their kids vaccinated, it could potentially decrease absenteeism, and the parents wouldn’t have to miss work to go pick up their kid," Scifres said.

"That’s a good point with the flu, too," Montgomery said. "Not only do we worry about people having complications, but economically, it really hurts the community because you’ve got a workforce that can’t go to work, and then the medical costs and the time off and all of that. It’s not just about your health. It is about taking care of the whole community."

[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”If you go” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]

What: Drive-thru flu clinic

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Oct. 18

Where: Jackson County Health Department, 801 W. Second St., Seymour

Who: Those 6 months of age and older are encouraged to receive a flu vaccine

Cost: $32, but most insurances cover it

Also: People can drop off unwanted or unused medications that day, too

Get the shot now: If you don’t want to wait for the drive-thru clinic, call 812-522-6667 to set up an appointment to get a flu shot now

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Know the difference

Flu symptoms: Sudden onset of temperature (102 to 104 degrees lasts three or four days), extreme fatigue or weakness (lasting two or three weeks), severe aches and pains, severe cough, prominent headache and chest discomfort

Common cold symptoms: Normal temperature, sneezing, sore throat, slight aches and pains, mild cough, rare headache and runny nose

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