The best way to protect you and your family against the flu is to get your flu shot every year. The Norwood Health Department offers flu clinics to Norwood Residents 14 years and older. This year’s clinic is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 19, from 9-11 a.m. at the Senior Center. It is important for all participants to bring their insurance cards. While insurance information is collected, there are no co-pays and no one is denied a shot if they are not insured.
As flu season approaches, the Health Department’s flu information line always has the most up-to-date information on vaccine availability and flu clinic schedules. The recording can be reached by calling Town Hall at 781-762-1240 and asking for the flu line or extension 220. You can also follow the Health Department on Twitter @norwoodHD for flu and other programs the department offers.
Flu is a disease of the body’s respiratory system, including the nose, throat and lungs. Flu is short for “influenza” and is caused by a virus. In New England, the yearly flu season usually begins in December and lasts through March with some variation every year. The flu virus changes slightly from year to year. Due to the virus changes, it is important to get the shot each year to protect against the particular strains circulating.
Every 30-40 years, the virus has a major change, as we saw in 2009-2010 season with H1N1 flu. The timing and severity of the change meant it was not included in the regular seasonal flu shot. It required a huge effort from public health officials to mount a quick and effective vaccine program to control the spread of the virus. Because of the programs to control infection and the huge vaccination efforts, the H1N1 flu ended up less severe than expected. The lesson public health learned is that with vast amounts of preventative efforts, including infection control measures and a large portion of the population vaccinated, illness and deaths are decreased.
Every year in the U.S., seasonal flu causes thousands of hospital admissions and deaths. Some people are at higher risk of serious health problems when they get the flu. This includes pregnant women, infants, the elderly, and people with medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney disease and weakened immune systems.
The best way to control the spread of the flu virus is to vaccinate as large a percentage of the population as possible, reducing the chance of the virus spreading from person to person. While the flu may not be not life threatening to a healthy individual, that individual can spread the virus, even before the onset of symptoms, to others such as infants or the elderly for whom the flu virus can be much more serious and perhaps life threatening. Getting a flu vaccine stops the spread of the virus. In addition the flu can last 7 to 10 days for a health individual that amounts to a lot of working days and schools days lost.
The viruses in the injectable vaccine have been killed, so you cannot get the flu from the shot. As with any new medication or treatment, there is always the risk of allergic reaction. The first time you get a flu shot you should wait 15 minutes with the medical staff to ensure no allergic reaction. Soreness, redness, or swelling may occur at the site of injection. Life-threatening allergic reactions are very rare. Any risk of complications from the flu vaccine is rare and much lower than the risk of severe flu, which can be prevented by the vaccination.
The flu virus is spread from person to person in the wet spray (droplets of saliva and mucous) that comes out of the nose and mouth of someone who coughs or sneezes. If you are close enough to a person with the flu (about 3-6 feet) when they cough or sneeze, you can breathe in the virus and get sick. Flu symptoms start one to four days after exposure, with most people showing symptoms after two days. The virus can also live for a short time on things you touch like doorknobs, phones, and toys. After you touch these objects, you can catch the virus when you then touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. In addition to the flu shot, there are other measures you can take to avoid the flu and other illnesses. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the inside of your elbow, and always wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Use household cleaners for things that are touched often, like door knobs, toys, and phones. Also, avoid close physical contact with people who are sick, and those who are at high risk of complications from flu should avoid crowds if possible during the flu season.
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Benefits of Pneumococcal or Pneumonia Vaccine
Pneumococcal disease is caused by bacteria that can infect the lungs (as pneumonia), the blood, and the membrane that covers the brain. The disease is most likely to strike in the winter and spring, aligning itself with the flu season. Pneumococcal disease is one of the most common causes of vaccine-preventable death in the country. Every year thousands of people need hospital treatment, and up to 5,500 people die because of pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal infection is the cause of more than one-third of pneumonia in adults. It is also the leading cause of pneumonia, blood infection, and ear infections in children.
There are two vaccines to prevent pneumococcal disease. Pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV) or Pneumovax protects against 23 strains most likely to cause disease in older children and adults, and is approved for people 2 years of age and older. Pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13) or Prevnar-13 protects against 13 types of the pneumococcal bacteria most likely to cause infection in young children, and is approved for infants and children younger than 5 years of age.
PPSV is recommended for everyone 65 years of age and older and people who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities. Anyone who is 2-64 years of age with the following medical conditions should also consider PPSV: chronic heart or lung problems, diabetes, liver problems, cochlear implants, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks, weakened immune systems caused by conditions such as sickle cell disease, having the spleen removed, kidney failure, cancer, organ transplants, drugs that weaken the immune systems, and HIV infection or AIDS.
Most people need only one dose of pneumococcal (PPSV) vaccine. If you are 65 years of age or older or if you have a chronic health problem, talk to your doctor or nurse to find out if you need a booster. It is a good idea to keep careful records of the vaccines you receive so your doctor will know when you need another.
The Health Department offers PPSV to Norwood Residents 18 years and older during our weekly immunization clinics on Tuesdays from 1:00-3:00 PM in the Health Department offices on the ground floor of Town Hall. The Department is also open the first Monday of every month from 6:00-7:30 PM for vaccinations and other Health Department business. Please call ahead to ensure vaccine availability. You may contact the Public Health Nurse at 781-762-1240 ext 173.
All children 6 weeks-23 months of age should get the PCV13, as well as children 2–5 years of age with the following conditions: chronic heart or lung problems, diabetes, liver problems, cochlear implants, or cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leaks, weakened immune systems caused by sickle cell disease, having the spleen removed, kidney failure, cancer, organ transplants, drugs that weaken the immune systems, and HIV infection or AIDS.
Contact your child’s doctor for more information on Prevnar13.
Any vaccine can cause side effects in some people. Some people who get pneumococcal vaccines have a little swelling and pain in the arm where the shot was given. This usually lasts for less than 2 days. Some children getting PCV13 may have a fever that lasts a few days. Other side effects, such as aching muscles, and severe side effects, such as allergic reactions, are rare.
Sigalle Reiss (Director, Health Department)