Now is the time to take a shot at avoiding the flu
By Rachel Farkas
Published: Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013, 7:15 p.m.
With flu season around the corner, experts say the best thing to do is get your flu shot and get it soon.
“It's really important to get the flu shot not just to protect yourself, but also to protect loved ones,” said Kait Gillis, Pennsylvania Department of Health spokeswoman.
VA Butler Healthcare said it will offer five flu vaccination clinics for veterans throughout the fall, the first one running from 7 a.m. to noon on Tuesday at the VA Butler Healthcare Building 1.
Butler Health System will offer flu shots for $20 at its FastERcare locations in Butler, Slippery Rock, Kittanning and Saxonburg at the beginning of October.
BHS spokeswoman Connie Downs said the vaccine has not yet arrived, but officials are expecting it by early October.
This flu season, a new quadrivalent influenza vaccine — meaning that it protects against four strains of the influenza virus — is being offered, Gillis said.
The four strains being targeted this year are two type A viruses, H1N1 and H3N2, and two type B viruses, Massachusetts and Brisbane strains, Gillis said.
Type A viruses tend to be more aggressive and dangerous to the elderly and people with compromised immune systems.
A trivalent influenza vaccine — which fights three strains of influenza — composed of the two targeted type A viruses and the type B Massachusetts virus, also is being offered.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration take their “most educated guess” each year as to what strains of the flu will be prevalent in the population, Gillis said, based on “what they're seeing now and what was seen last year.”
It's hard to predict each year how the flu will affect people, but Gillis said the 2012 flu season, beginning in October of that year and ending in April, was the worst since the 2009 swine flu outbreak.
“It started sooner than usual, and it was a more intense flu than we'd seen in a long time, since 2009,” Gillis said.
In 2012, there were 44,308 lab confirmed cases of the flu in Pennsylvania and 200 deaths statewide, Gillis said.
There were 942 confirmed influenza cases and three deaths in Butler County in 2012.
However, the number of lab confirmed cases presents only a percentage of the actual number of flu cases.
Not everyone experiencing symptoms visits the doctor, and as the season continues, some doctors diagnose patients with the flu without testing them, Gillis said.
The next best thing to getting a flu shot is to stay home if you are sick with flu-like symptoms, Gillis said.
People should also remember to wash their hands often with soap and water, avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth, avoid close contact with sick people and practice good health habits,
“Hopefully we don't have a season like last year,” Gillis said.
Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-779-6902 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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