The state’s health department and local units have begun their preemptive strikes on the seasonal flu.
A day-long mass flu vaccination clinic is to be offered by the Faulkner County Health Department Nov. 2 at the McGee Center on College Avenue.
There is no charge to receive the vaccine, but the department is asking that insured individuals bring insurance information so the state can supplement the cost of the clinic.
The Arkansas Department of Health is partnering with the Arkansas Department of Education and local school districts statewide to provide the vaccinations to students on school grounds in another effort to reach more of the population.
Little Rock School District begins vaccinations Monday, and Conway Schools will offer free flu vaccines Nov. 5-14 to students in all grades.
Both the nasal mist and injectable vaccines will be offered to students this year.
October is typically the month the United States begins seeing the first signs of seasonal influenza, though the illness peaks in January and February, according to the Center for Disease Control.
The Arkansas Department of Health says younger, healthy individuals will experience 70 to 90 percent effectiveness with the vaccine.
The vaccine does not cause the flu, according to the department.
In a release, Gary Wheeler, M.D., director of the Infectious Disease Branch, said, "The flu vaccine triggers your body’s immune system to fight off the real flu when it comes around this winter…It is especially important for pregnant women to get vaccinated now since infants can’t get the flu vaccine for the first six months of life."
This year’s vaccine, designed to combat the prevalent strains seen in Asian countries’ flu season which comes earlier in the year, contains two strains of influenza type A and one strain of type B. One combats H1N1, prevalent in 2009, another is from 2010 and the third from a 2011 virus.
"Asia encounters its flu season earlier than us. Sometimes it’s right, sometimes it’s not. Sometimes we may see a prevalence of a different strain," said Dr. Michael Fahr, Conway Regional emergency physician and director of the Emergency Department.
Most remember a mild flu season in late 2011 and early 2012.
There is no prediction about this year offered by the Center for Disease Control.
Flu vaccinations are already being offered in the area by private clinics and retailers like Walgreens at a price of about $32. Many insurance providers will cover the cost of the flu vaccine.
All health care providers or caretakers of individuals with weakened immune systems are encouraged to get the vaccine as early as possible, according to the CDC.
Who should get vaccinated?
The CDC says everyone six months and older should get the shot each year.
Those at risk of developing flu-related complications are children younger than 2, adults age 65 and older, pregnant women, American Indians and Alaskan natives, people who have medical conditions such as asthma or chronic lung disease, those with heart disease, kidney or liver disorders, metabolic disorders, people who are morbidly obese or have a weakened immune system.
Individuals who work in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are urged to receive the vaccine, the CDC says.
The only part of the population that should not be vaccinated are those with severe allergic reactions to chicken eggs.
Flu symptoms typically consist of fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea.
Fahr said the flu is often described by patients as a severe cold.
"But it can be deadly. People die every year," he said. "It’s important the high risk patients be immunize because that certainly is a potential outcome."
Other than the vaccine, hand washing is the best preventative measure, Fahr said.
There are medical treatments for the influenza virus, but Fahr said they are most effective in the first 48 hours.
The treatment options "keep the virus from growing, slow it down and help your body to get rid of it," Fahr said.
To receive the vaccine at the Faulkner County Health Department’s mass clinic, take identification or a driver’s license and an insurance card if it is available.
The clinic will take place from 8:30 a.m. until 6 p.m.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)