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Officials push flu shots before season starts

It’s not too late to get vaccinated against influenza (flu)before the flu season is expected to begin between late Decemberand February, say county health officials.

“It’s still a good time to get vaccinated. For those who haveput it off, it’s not too late,” said Becky Calcote, countycoordinating nurse at the Lincoln County Health Department.

The health department started giving flu shots around the firstof October, with more than 1,500 people taking advantage of theservice to find the best protection against the virus.

“We’ve given 1,586 flu shots and about 250 of the pneumoniashots,” said Calcote, adding that the number is average for thistime of year.

Health department employees continue to administer severalvaccinations a day to the help people develop protection frominfluenza in about two weeks after the vaccination, which may lastup to one year.

The vaccines, which cost $10 each, are available weekdays from 8a.m. until 4 p.m., except on Thursdays when they are only givenbetween 8 a.m. and noon.

“It will be first come, first serve,” said Calcote. “We’re downto about 300 doses, but we’re still ordering as we need to. We’vegot plenty for those who want to get it.”

Influenza, most commonly called the flu, is caused by a virusthat spreads from infected persons to the nose or throat ofothers.

It can cause fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills andmuscle aches for several days, sometimes leading tohospitalization. Influenza causes thousands of deaths each year,mostly among the elderly.

People at high risk were urged to get vaccinated in October,with those at less risk encouraged to get the flu shot in Novemberand early December.

An annual flu shot is recommended for senior citizens, residentsof long-term care facilities, those with long-term respiratory,blood or kidney health problems, pregnant women who will be pastthe third month of pregnancy during flu season and health careworkers.

Also, people from six months to 18 years old who take aspirin asa long-term treatment should get the vaccine.

The annual flu shot is encouraged for anyone who wants to reducetheir chance of catching influenza or will have contact with thoseat high risk for influenza.

Some people who get the flu vaccine may still get the flu, butthey will usually get a milder case than those who did not get theshot.

The viruses in the vaccine have been killed so people cannot getinfluenza from the vaccine. However, it is capable of causingserious problems, such as allergic reactions, but the chance isslim, according to information released by the state healthdepartment.