Get ready people: It’s flu season

Frost has shown up on the pumpkins and it won’t be long before the air is cold, the wind is biting, and the rain and snow associated with the cold months of the year will be around us. It’s time to prepare for flu season which typically begins this month. It’s time to visit the Columbiana County Health Department staff, your healthcare provider or your pharmacy for the flu vaccine.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that everyone 6 months old or older get a flu vaccine by the end of October. Vaccines keep you from getting sick with the flu – or if you get the flu, it won’t be so severe. It reduces the risk of flu-associated hospitalization for children, working age adults and older adults.

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes, the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting flu vaccine each year, advises the CDC.

Symptoms may include feeling feverish and chills. Other symptoms are a cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, fatigue (tiredness). Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea although these are more common in children than adults.

Flu complications include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections and worsening of chronic medical conditions like congestive heart failure, asthma and diabetes. Those at high risk from flu are people age 65 and older, people with the above chronic health conditions, pregnant women and children younger than 5.

Comparing influenza illness today to that of the Spanish flu 100 years ago, strides have been made to improve treatment of the flu. The 1918 influenza epidemic was the most severe in recent history, says the CDC. It spread worldwide over 1918-1919, striking 500 million people, claiming the lives of about 50 million people. In the United States an estimated 675,000 people died, including a high mortality of healthy people in the 20-40-year-old age group.

There was no vaccine to protect Americans against influenza infection nor antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections. All efforts of control were limited to isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants and limitation of public gatherings.

Flu and pneumonia vaccines are available through the Columbiana County Health Department. Immunization clinics have been set up between Oct. 22 and Oct. 31 at numerous points around the county:

— Oct. 22, 9-11 a.m., Salineville Kiwanis Building, 100 N. Alley, Salineville;

— Oct. 24, 2:30-5 p.m., Columbiana County Career and Technical Center, Lisbon;

— Oct. 28, 9-11 a.m., St. Jude’s Hall/Catholic Church, 180 Seventh St., Columbiana;

— Oct. 28, 1-3 p.m. East Palestine Fire Department, 67 E. Clark St., East Palestine;

— Oct. 29, 9-11 a.m., Wellsville City Hall, Wellsville;

— Oct. 29, 1-3 p.m., Peter Metrovich Community Center, 15442 Pugh Road, East Liverpool;

— Oct. 31, 9-11:30 a.m. and 1-3 p.m., Columbiana County Health Department, 7360 State Route 45, Lisbon.

Cost for the flu shot is $25; high dose trivalent flu vaccine for those 65 years and older $50; pneumonia shot, $109. No appointment is necessary. Most private insurances are accepted. Bring insurance, Medicare or Medicaid cards with you for billing purposes. For more information, contact Jamie Elenz, RN at the health department, 330-424-0272, extension 116.