By Rose L. Thayer
Killeen Daily Herald
Nearly a month into the official flu season, local public health officials and doctors are urging people to consider taking preventive measures.
“We highly recommend that everyone be vaccinated,” said Tina Gibson, coordinator of the immunization program for the Bell County Public Health District.
While flu shots are not mandatory, they are the only way to prevent the flu. Gibson recommends that people who work in the health care field, elderly people and pregnant women take vaccinations seriously.
“From a public health standpoint, it’s really important to get the flu shot to protect yourself and to protect others,” she said. “Especially if you are going to be around children below the age of 6 months. It’s the only way to protect them because they are too young to be vaccinated.”
Gibson also wants to let people know that a flu shot doesn’t give people the flu — that’s a myth. Dr. David Webster, a family practitioner in Harker Heights, agreed.
“That’s not substantial anymore,” Webster said. “I haven’t seen in several years anybody getting symptoms. My staff and I get (a flu shot) every year. I haven’t had the flu in my staff in a large number of years.”
Several vaccine delivery methods
This year there are four different flu vaccine methods available, said Dr. Manjusha Gaglani, professor of pediatrics and section chief for pediatric infectious diseases at Scott & White Hospital. Each vaccine contains the same strains of flu as last year, including H1N1. Gaglani added that the Center for Disease Control doesn’t give preference to one vaccine over another, but it’s important to know the benefits of each one.
The shot: This vaccine method is the most widely available and is licensed for babies as young as 6-months-old, adults and expecting mothers.
The nasal spray: This vaccine method, also called flu mist, is available for healthy, nonpregnant people, aged 2 to 49.
Gaglani said the mist gives protection in the nose and upper respiratory tract, as well as the rest of the body. While some people experience adverse affects, such as a runny nose, Gaglani said that means the vaccine is taking.
The intradermal injection: Newly approved by the Food and Drug Administration, this method is available for adults between the ages of 18 and 64. It uses less virus proteins than a typical flu vaccine and is injected at a superficial level of the skin.
“It gives you just as good immunity by using a smaller dose of the vaccine, so you can make it for many more people,” Gaglani said. “It can give you more of the local reactions, such as redness and pain.”
The high-dose zone: This method, called the flu zone, is recommended for people aged 65 and older. It has as four times the amount of the vaccine per dose.
“As you get older, your immunity wanes and you have a harder time,” said Gaglani. “A way of overcoming that is to give you more protein antigens so that your body can make at least as much immunity as you’re supposed to.”
For those who are delayed in getting vaccinated, or chose not to do so, there are some preventative measures.
“Wash your hands frequently during the day,” Webster said. “And cover your mouth and nose in your sleeve or elbow when you sneeze.”
He said for people who do catch the flu, rest is the only real cure. “If you have the flu, stay home,” Webster said. “Don’t expose yourself to other people. You should stay home and get rest.”
He said to keep watch for complications and consult a doctor if any appear, such as headaches, neck pain, extremely high fever, chest pains and shortness of breath.
“You only need to see a physician if you feel you have complications, if your ill longer than three to five days or if you have any other chronic diseases that might cause complications,” Webster said.
Contact Rose L. Thayer at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7463. Follow her on Twitter at KDHreporter.
Where to get a flu shot
Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center now has flu shots and the flu mist available to all military personnel and families at all of its clinics, including the new medical homes. It is recommended that patients call before visiting to make sure the vaccine is available at that time.
Bell County Public Health District offers $20 flu vaccines for adults older than 19 years old.
Children’s vaccines are provided for ages 6 months to 18 years old with a suggested $10 donation. The mist is also available for children. Vaccines are available every Tuesday in the Killeen office, 309 N. Second St.
Many local pharmacies also offer flu vaccines, which may be covered by insurance.