Preparations made for flu season

By Greg Gelpi

As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention prepares for flu season, the CDC urges the public to do so as well.

Flu season doesn't begin until November, but a shortage of flu vaccinations last season is setting preparations for the coming flu season in motion early.

"The best way to prepare for the flu season is to get your flu vaccination," said Freda Sheppard, immunization coordinator for the Clayton County Board of Health. "If you still get the flu, you won't be as sick as if you had never gotten that shot."

According to the board of health, it's estimated that 10 percent to 20 percent of U.S. residents come down with the flu each year. In addition, about 114,000 people are hospitalized annually with flu-related complications and 36,000 Americans die annually as a result.

Linda Abercrombie, the employee health nurse at Southern Regional Medical Center, said last year's flu season was particularly bad because of the particular strain of flu dominant during the season.

"Last year was really bad for everybody," she said.

Around Christmas, many hospital employees were out sick with flu-like symptoms, and the emergency room experienced an increase in patients complaining of similar symptoms, Abercrombie said.

Although the flu season usually runs from November through January and February, she recommended getting a flu shot in early October in preparation for the coming flu season.

"I feel like people really should take it," Abercrombie said. "A lot of times people don't take the shot because they said they took it once and got the flu from taking it."

Flu vaccinations no longer contain live flu viruses in them, so they can't cause the flu, she said.

The nation suffered shortages in flu shots last year brought about by an early flu season and fears that last year's dominant strain of flu virus would cause more illness than in past years.

Manufacturers have increased production to 100 million doses of flu vaccinations this year, the most production in recent years. Last year, 86 million doses were made.

Sheryl D. Taylor, a spokeswoman for the Clayton County Board of Health, doesn't anticipate vaccination shortages as occurred last season. The board has placed orders for vaccines and will begin distribution during the first week of October.

The board of health identified children ages 6 months to 23 months and adults 50 years old and older as being at high risk of getting the flu. Also at high risk are people with chronic health conditions, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems, people taking long-term aspirin therapy, people who live in institutional facilities and healthcare workers.

Children younger than 6 months old, people allergic to eggs and people who have had problems with flu shots previously should not get flu shots.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.