Flu season starts early, vaccine available at county health departments
ALBANY–Clusters of seasonal flu are already being reported in Southwest Health District, and the area’s top Public Health official is recommending that residents get vaccinated early against the virus.
“We are seeing cases of flu primarily in children at this time,” said Southwest Health District Health Director Dr. Charles Ruis. “But seasonal flu is unpredictable. Experts cannot forecast from year to year which population will be most affected by the virus or when it is most likely to circulate.”
Ruis said the flu typically appears in Southwest Georgia when the weather grows cooler. “Seeing clusters of flu now is a little unusual, but, as I said, flu is unpredictable,” Ruis stressed. “One thing we can say is that flu season tends to peak between December and March.”
The National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that everyone six months old and older get vaccinated against flu.
Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue and in some instances upset stomach. For young children, older adults, those with chronic health conditions such as heart disease or asthma – and even for some healthy people – flu can cause serious complications that may lead to hospitalization or even death.
Ruis said it is also important to get the vaccine if you care for anyone at high risk, including babies younger than six months because they are too young to get the vaccine. To learn more about high risk conditions, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm.
“Getting the flu vaccine is simple, and it’s the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from the flu,” Ruis said. “At your county health department, flu shots are covered by Medicare, Medicaid, PeachState, WellCare, Amerigroup, Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Aetna, Cigna, Coventry and other insurers.”
He said flu vaccine is available at county health departments, pharmacies and other healthcare providers.
For more information about seasonal flu, go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org. or www.cdc.gov.