Health officials urge vaccinations against flu

By Pat Jenkins The Dispatch Pierce County health officials are shifting attention from recent fear of Ebola to flu, a health risk year in and year out. While the nation's health system mobilized in recent months against the Ebola virus to head off possible outbreaks, it's the flu that remains a greater threat, according to the Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, which last week issued a reminder that flu vaccinations GÇô some of them free or low-cost GÇô are widely available as a primary defense. Flu can cause fever, coughing, sore throats and body aches for several days, and can be fatal in severe cases. Nationally, as many as 49,000 people have died annually from the flu, including 10 in Pierce County in the past year.-á "Getting a yearly flu vaccination through a shot or nasal spray is the single most important means of protection against the flu,GÇ¥ said Nigel Turner, the communicable disease control director for the Health Department. Annual flu immunizations help protect particularly vulnerable people such as infants, the elderly and immune-compromised individuals. Immunizations also keep doctor visits and sick days down, and they can prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths, according to Turner.-á He said getting a flu vaccination is especially important for people at high risk, including children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and those with chronic conditions, including asthma, diabetes, heart disease and neurologic conditions. Babies under six months old are too young to get vaccinated, but people in close contact with babies should get vaccinated to protect the infants. Flu vaccines are available at healthcare professionals' offices, pharmacies and some local health agencies. The Health Department distributes free vaccine for children to medical providers throughout Pierce County. -á Information on vaccination locations is available from the Health Department at, including clinics for adults and children provided through Mary Bridge Children's Hospital Immunization Services and Franciscan Health System. The Bethel and Eatonville school districts have hosted one-day flu vaccination clinics in the past two months.
Flu fighters, take note
In addition to getting a flu vaccination, other steps you can take to prevent or reduce the spread of the influenza virus include: " Washing hands. Frequent washing is one the most effective ways to reduce the spread of germs. Wash with soap and warm water, scrubbing all parts of your hands and wrists for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water isn't easily accessible. " Staying home if you're sick. Viruses can't spread as quickly if they aren't shared with co-workers and classmates. " Covering coughs. Use your elbow or a disposable tissue, not your hand, to cover your mouth when coughing. " Keeping it clean. Use sanitizing wipes or spray to clean counters, door knobs, telephones, computer keyboards and mice, and other surfaces you touch frequently. -á


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