Local health official urges flu prevention





It is too early to predict what the flu season will be like this year, but Finney County Health Department Administrator Ashley Goss said now is the time to be proactive against the virus.

"Now is the perfect time to get your flu shot because it helps prevent the flu," she said.

In some cases, Goss said, additional precautions also should be taken.

"The same risk group as usual are elderly people and infants. Anyone under the age of 6 months cannot get a flu shot, so it's best to vaccinate the people around them, and of course, those with a weakened immune system," Goss said.

Flu shots are available at the Finney County Health Department, 919 Zerr Road, which is open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 8 a.m. to noon on Friday. The clinic is closed the first Friday of each month, but Goss said appointments for flu shots are not necessary.

"They are $25, and they can just walk in," Goss said.

People also can get flu shots from their primary care providers or local pharmacy.

Goss said that the challenge ever year is whether the flu shot available has the strain of flu that's going around. She said that the current immunization is for the three most prevalent strains of the flu, including H1N1, H3N2 and the B/Wisconsin/1/2010-like virus (from the B/Yamagata lineage of viruses). This information is also available on the Centers for Disease Control website, www.cdc.gov.

"Now, people just have to remember there are other combinations that mutate or that develop that aren't in the vaccine, but their best prevention is to get a flu shot," she said.

If a different strain of flu were to appear, Goss said that the likelihood of a vaccine being made available for it would depend on a couple of factors.

"Number one, they would have to have a vaccine for it. Number two, it would have to be in like a pandemic form, like H1N1 was. If there are just a couple of people here and there that are getting sick and it's relatively mild, then probably not, but if we have something like H1N1 again, then you can expect to see a vaccine," she said, adding that even in that case, the vaccine would have to be manufactured.

Aside from getting flu shots, Goss said that rest and preventing the spread of the flu is the best course of action to take.

"If you're sick, stay home so you don't share your germs with anyone else," she said.

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