CHRISTIANSBURG– The New River Health District (NRHD)will offer free seasonal flu vaccines at a special drive-thru dispensing clinic Friday, Oct. 4, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Old Christiansburg High School, 208 College St., Christiansburg.
Only 400 doses of the vaccine will be available, and will be offered to anyone 18 years and older on a first-come, first-served basis. People are reminded to wear clothing that is loose around the arm so that a public health nurse can administer the flu shot in the upper arm, without having to leave the comfort and convenience of their cars.
“We’ve already documented cases of influenza this season in the New River Valley, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Virginia Department of Health recommend vaccination each year for everyone six months and older,” said Dr. Margaret O’Dell, director of NRHD. “Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza and its potentially severe complications, and this unique ‘drive-thru’ approach is proven to be a fast and efficient way to vaccinate a large number of folks in a short time.”
“The timing and duration of flu seasons vary – they can occur from early fall to late spring – so you should get the vaccine as soon as it’s available,” said registered nurse Brenda B. Burrus, nurse manager senior for the NRHD. “It takes up to two weeks to develop the vaccine’s full protection, and the benefits last for up to a year.”
According to the NRHD, all persons aged six months or older should be vaccinated against influenza each year. The NRHD provides a list for those at higher risk for influenza complications whom they feel should make a particular effort to receive the vaccination:
• Pregnant and postpartum women, or those who will be pregnant during the influenza season;
• Persons over 65 years of age, including residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities;
• People who have chronic lung or heart problems, including asthma; and
• People who have other serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, anemia, cancer, weak immune systems (including those with HIV) or a seizure disorder.
The NRHD says to help prevent the spread of influenza to people in high risk groups, those who live with people in a high risk group and healthcare workers should also receive an annual influenza vaccine. Travelers to countries outside of the U.S. may also need to consider influenza vaccination, even at different times of the year.
Influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is a serious disease caused by the influenza virus that affects the respiratory tract. It is highly contagious and generally spreads from person-to-person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can be transmitted even before flu-like symptoms appear. A person usually becomes sick one to three days following exposure to the virus. Typical flu symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue.
Each year in the U.S. approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized due to flu illness, and flu-related deaths range from 3,000 to 49,000 each year, averaging 24,000 per year over the last three decades.
To minimize risk of contracting or transmitting the flu, the NRHD recommends getting vaccinated, washing hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, covering your cough, either by using a disposable tissue or coughing into your sleeve, not your hand, and staying home when sick.