Written by Staff Reports Saturday, September 29, 2012 12:00 am
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ATLANTIC COUNTY - In a struggling economy, few people can afford to miss work or a paycheck.
But seasonal influenza poses a serious risk. The highly contagious respiratory illness afflicts an average of 5-20 percent of our nation’s population each year, resulting in 36,000 annual deaths and 200,000 yearly hospitalizations.
To help residents protect themselves and their loved ones from seasonal flu, the Atlantic County Division of Public Health is providing 11 public flu shot clinics Saturday, Sept. 29 through Thursday, Nov. 8 for those 18 and older.
There is a $15 fee for flu shots.
Pneumonia shots will also be available to eligible residents 65 years and older for $25. There is no out-of-pocket cost for either shot for residents with Medicare Part B coverage who present their card.
As an added convenience this year, residents may schedule a flu shot appointment online at www.aclink.org. Appointments are not required and walk-ins will be served at all locations.
"Most residents receive their flu shot within 15 minutes of arrival at our clinics, however, we appreciate the value of people's time and hope that by offering appointments we will attract those who might not otherwise find the time for a flu shot," explained County Executive Dennis Levinson.
Flu season can be as unpredictable as the virus, but the highest number of cases are reported between October and April. The 2012-13 vaccine will protect against three influenza virus strains that research indicates will be most prevalent during the season: influenza B, influenza A (H1N1), and influenza A (H3N2).
"Studies indicate that immunity declines over time so an annual flu shot is your best protection," stated Public Health Officer Patricia Diamond. "Because it may take up to two weeks for the antibodies to develop in your body, the sooner you get a shot, the better."
Flu symptoms may include fever, headaches, extreme fatigue, chest discomfort, cough, muscle aches and pains. Complications from the virus may include: bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.
The effects of influenza are especially concerning to adults over age 50, those with chronic medical conditions, women who will be pregnant during flu season, healthcare providers and home caregivers who provide direct patient care. These individuals are strongly urged to receive a flu shot.
Parents and guardians of children 6 months to 18 years of age should consult their child's physician.
To further help prevent the spread of the influenza virus, cover coughs and sneezes, wash hands frequently, and clean commonly shared or frequently touched items. If you contract the flu drink plenty of liquids, get plenty of rest and contact your healthcare provider.
For flue clinic schedule, go to www.aclink.org/public health where you may also schedule an appointment and learn more about seasonal flu. More information is available from the county Division of Public Health at (609) 645-5933.