STEUBENVILLE - Local public health agencies already are fielding questions about the upcoming flu season.
But the Steubenville and Jefferson County health departments probably won't start offering flu vaccines until next month.
"We will start our flu vaccine clinics when we receive an adequate supply of the vaccine," Steubenville Health Commissioner Patty Reda said.
REVIEWING THE FACTS — Steubenville Health Commissioner Patty Reda, seated, and health department nurse Sandy Perlosky reviewed the 2010-11 influenza vaccine fact sheet. Public health agencies are preparing for the annual flu vaccine season. - Dave Gossett
Reda and Sandy Perlosky, a registered nurse with the city health department, said they already have been fielding questions about the flu vaccine.
"I think the H1N1 flu pandemic last year and the extensive media coverage of the virus generated more interest in obtaining a flu vaccine this year. And the new flu vaccine will include three components including the H1N1 virus," explained Reda.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported earlier this year more Americans were vaccinated against seasonal flu during the 2009-10 season than during the previous flu season.
According to a report by the CDC, the greatest gain in vaccination rates was in children ages 6 months to 17. About 40 percent of children were vaccinated for seasonal flu last season, representing a 16 percentage point jump from the 2008-09 season.
There also was an increase in the percentage of healthy adults ages 18-49 years old who were vaccinated against seasonal flu.
"Anyone can get the flu, but the rates of infection are highest among children. That's why it is so important to protect yourself from the flu and to also avoid spreading the virus to others," Reda noted.
"I would encourage all adults to strongly consider getting a flu vaccine this year," Perlosky stated.
She noted the CDC is advising younger adults to obtain a flu vaccine, "because the health care community has always felt everyone can benefit from getting a flu shot."
"We are stressing anyone age 50 or above and those people with chronic diseases such as diabetes, heart conditions, lung related illnesses, anemia or immune problems should receive a flu vaccine," Perlosky said.
"Receiving the flu shot only takes a few minutes but it can help prevent the spread of influenza," Perlosky stressed.
Becky Howell of the Jefferson County Health Department agreed.
"We will publicize our flu vaccine schedules throughout the county at a later date. But it is important for adults, especially older adults with a chronic illness to receive a flu shot this year," Howell said.
"People should receive a flu vaccine every year. There are variations in the different strains of flu every year. The vaccine this year is based on the strains of flu from last year," explained Howell.
"Getting a flu shot doesn't mean you won't get the flu. But it will help you combat the chances of getting the flu and will help ease the symptoms," Howell said.
She is suggesting area residents wait until October or November to obtain the flu vaccine.
"The flu season really doesn't hit us in the Ohio Valley until January or February so I am suggesting waiting until at least next month before getting a flu shot to make sure the vaccine is still at full strength during the traditional flu season," she noted.
According to Howell the flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills, muscle aches and fatigue.
"We will publicize our flu clinics once we have obtained the vaccines and determined the cost of the shot this year," Howell said.
And while they wait for their supply of the flu vaccine, the local officials urge common sense prevention.
"Living a healthy lifestyle is key to helping prevent the flu. Getting enough rest, eating right and things as basic as washing your hands are all important," said Perlosky.
"If you do get the flu you should stay at home and avoid others if at all possible," she added.
"Cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze," urged Howell.
"But even if you you do all that it doesn't mean you won't come into contact with someone who doesn't take steps to avoid catching the flu. That's why the flu vaccine is so important," Reda advised.
(Gossett can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)