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Fighting the flu: Vaccinations recommended

By Staff | Oct 4, 2008

This month is the start the 2008-2009 flu season and local health officials are suggesting that residents of Southwest Florida receive a vaccination, which is especially important for the elderly, children, pregnant women and health employees.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that between 143 and 146 million doses of the influenza vaccination will be produced and used this season throughout the United States. The CDC stated that this is an all-time high supply and the organization recommends that 86 percent of Americans receive the shot this year.

Sometimes it’s difficult to tell the difference between the flu and a common cold, although generally the symptoms of the flu are more severe. People with the common cold typically have a runny or stuffy nose, but the flu can cause body aches, extreme fatigue, dry cough or fever.

Furthermore, the flu may lead to pneumonia or infections for the elderly or someone with a weakened immune system. Each year some 36,000 Americans die from getting the flu and another 200,000 are hospitalized.

Many local providers such as Walgreen’s, the Visiting Nurses Association and Maxim Healthcare (www.findaflushot.com) are offering shots in October. The shots typically last one year.

According to Michael Barnaby, spokesperson for the Lee County Health Department, the department is providing flu shots starting Nov. 10, even though demand on the health department decreased as other local companies offer shots.

“We are doing flu shots,” he said. “It hasn’t been a dramatic production here.”

In the past the health department administered the majority of local flu shots, but Barnaby said that in recent years the department has gone through fewer vaccinations.

“There is so much competition that we aren’t a big player in the game anymore. Last year we only did 3,000 shots on Michigan Avenue,” he said.

On the other hand, if health projections are correct, the county health department and other providers may see an jump in the amount of demanded vaccinations.

Besides formulating projections, health organizations around the world study which strains pose a greater threat in the coming year. Later, a vaccine is designed that specifically deals with those strains. This year health officials have created a vaccination that deals with three separate strains, but there have been years when the experts were wrong.

“Each year’s shot are a best guess of what mix of strains it is going to be,” said Michael Barnaby.

The department is charging up to $30 for flu shots, but Part B Medicare will provide compensation for those who qualify, he said.

Also, to cushion the process for children, the department is carrying FluMist. It’s designed for children, ages 2 to 18, who don’t want to receive a shot. Instead, FluMist allows the patient to breath in the vaccine.

The VNA (www.visitingnurseswfl.com) began administering shots for $30 each on Oct. 1. On Thursday they were stationed at St. Andrew’s Catholic Church, but throughout the flu season they will be posted at various locations in Cape Coral such as Kiwanis Thrift Shop, Florida Community Bank, the Lake Kennedy Senior Center and many more.

Walgreen’s stores also began providing vaccine shots starting on Oct. 1 and will do so again Oct. 9 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For information about finding a store or making an appointment for a flu shot, visit www.walgreens.com.

For information on receiving the vaccine, visit

www.leecounty.com /healthdept.