Changing leaves signal more than just the change from summer to fall, it also signals the start of a different sort of season; flu season.
Influenza (flu) is a respiratory disease caused by a number of related viruses. According to the Pennsylvania Department of Health, flu symptoms can include fever, tiredness, headache, dry cough, sore throat, nasal congestion and body aches. Approximately 36,000 people die annually from influenza.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the 2012 vaccination for the virus will include protection from influenza A (H1N1), influenza A (H3N2) and influenza B viruses.
Infection Prevention and Employee Health Nurse at Warren General Hospital (WGH), "The number one way to prevent flu is to get vaccinated."
According to the CDC, flu season varies from year to year but generally begins as early as Oct. and ends by May.
While the flu virus circulates year-round, the CDC notes spread of the virus reaches epidemic proportions each year and generally peaks in Jan. or February.
The CDC recommends everyone over the age of six months get a flu vaccine each year to help prevent the spread of the disease. The vaccine may be provided as an injection or as a nasal spray.
According to the CDC, people at especially high risk of suffering serious complications from the flu include:
People age six months to four years
People age 50 and older
People with chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular, renal, hapeatic, neurological or metabolic disorders
People with immunosuppresion issues due to medication or illness
People who are or will be pregnant
People age six months to 18 years and receiving long-term aspirin therapy
Residents of nursing homes and chronic care facilities
American Indians and Alaska natives
People who are morbidly obese
Health care personnel
Household contacts and caregivers of people age five years and younger or 50 and older
Household contacts and caregivers of people with conditions putting them at greater risk of complication from the flu
People who should not receive a flu vaccine injection according to the CDC include:
People who have ever had a sever allergic reaction to eggs
People who have previously had a reaction to the flu vaccine
People with a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome
People under age 65 should not receive a high dose flu injection
People under 18 years of age or over 65 years of age should not receive the intradermal flu injection
People who have a fever should consult their physician before getting a flu shot
People who should not receive the vaccine as a nasal spray according to the CDC include:
Children age six to 23 months and adults over age 50
People who have ever had a severe allergic reaction to eggs.
People who have had a severe reaction to the vaccine in the past.
People with asthma and children younger than 5 years with one or more episodes of wheezing within the past year.
Anyone with certain muscle or nerve disorders (such as seizure disorders or cerebral palsy) that can lead to breathing or swallowing problems.
Anyone with a weakened immune system.
Anyone in close contact with someone whose immune system is so weak they require care in a protected environment (such as a bone marrow transplant unit).
Children or adolescents on long-term aspirin treatment.
People with a history of GuillainBarre Syndrome.
The CDC recommends people get vaccinated as soon after the release of that year's vaccine as possible.
The Pennsylvania Department of Health and Warren General Hospital will both be holding flu clinics offering the injection this month.
A clinic at the Pennsylvania Department of Health's Warren offices at 2027 Pennsylvania Ave. East will be held on Oct. 24. Appointments can be made through the department offices by calling 814-728-3566. A fee of $5 will be charged. Payment is by check or money order only.
WGH will also provide flu shots on Oct. 26 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. at the Senior Expo at the Warren Mall.
WGH requires all employees to get flu vaccinations in the interest of patient safety.
Additionally, the department of health will be offering shingles vaccinations at its Warren office by appointment. To make an appointment, individuals must be 60 years of age or older and not have an insurance plan already covering the vaccine. Individuals with Medicare parts A and B fall into this category, but those with Medicare part D do not.