Health officials say get a flu shot early

By Elizabeth Marie Himchak

Health officials are urging locals to get their flu vaccinations early, advice many might want to heed considering last season’s record outbreak.

During the 2012-13 season there were 5,438 lab-confirmed influenza cases and 65 deaths due to flu-related complications in San Diego County, said José A. Alvarez, spokesman at the county’s Health and Human Services Agency. The latter surpassed the previous high of 58 deaths during the county’s 2009-10 H1N1 Pandemic flu season. County officials cited a more severe strain of influenza A (H3N2) as a factor.

Senior Medical - Flu Shot

Palomar Health is starting its community flu shot clinics on Sunday in Poway, the first of 26 scheduled in the immediate area and 73 it is holding.

The shots are $20. Only cash or checks (with name and address printed by bank plus photo ID) are accepted. Seniors should bring their Medicare and supplemental insurance cards. Receipts are available upon request.

For the first time, those as young as 9 years can get vaccinated at Palomar Health’s community clinics. Previously only adults could get their shots there. The change is due requests made last year when 3,278 adults were vaccinated, said Registered Nurse Luanne Arangio-Law, Palomar Health’s community health nurse supervisor.

Children under 9 years can go to their pediatrician. If over age 2 another option is Palomar Health’s Expresscare Clinics, including in the Rancho Penasquitos Albertsons. For details, go to

www.PalomarHealth.org/expresscare

.

Many area grocery stores and pharmacies are also providing flu shots at various prices.

People can wait until later in the year to get their annual vaccination, but Arangio-Law said getting the shot early is best since it takes two weeks for immunity to develop. People cannot catch the flu by getting the shot.

Protection lasts six months to one year. The flu season can start in October and last through May.

The 2013-14 flu vaccine protects against what are predicted to be the three most common influenza viruses as determined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. It includes an influenza A (H1N1), an influenza A (H3N2) and an influenza B virus.

The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated unless they have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination or history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome. Those with a moderate-to-severe illness with a fever should wait until they recover.

People at higher risk of flu complications are those 50 or older; those with heart disease, lung disease, diabetes, HIV, blood disorders, kidney disease or a weakened immune system; children 6 months and older; pregnant women; nursing home or assisted living facility residents; those with difficulty breathing or swallowing; health care providers; and anyone who is a caregiver to or lives with anyone in the above categories.

“Influenza ... can be very unpredictable,” Arangio-Law said. “Nobody knows, so you presume (the season) will be bad and get the shot. When you hear in the press that it’s really bad, you might be getting (vaccinated) too late.”

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