Cold and flu season; not too late for immunizations

Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE – It’s not too late to prevent what could become weeks of misery and various medical complications by getting immunized against influenza.

flu-get-vaccinatedInfluenza, commonly called the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus that can cause mild to severe illness. Complications can result in hospitalization or even death.

So far this season, only three people in the five county area have been hospitalized with the flu, but that could change.

“This is typically just the beginning of flu season and we might expect to see an increase over the next few months,” Southwest Public Health Department spokesman David Heaton said. “It (flu season) often peaks in February.”

The flu vaccine is available in several injectable forms this year, Heaton said. All are formulated to protect against these influenza viruses: A (California)/ H1N1, A (Hong Kong/ H3N2 and B (Brisbane). Some vaccines also protect against B (Phuket).

No restrictions have been placed on visitors at Dixie Regional Medical Center so far this year, Dixie Regional Infection Control Manager Crissy Elliot said, but that could change if the situation worsens. The hospital always encourages sick people to refrain from visiting anyone in the hospital.

flu-everyday-actionsIn 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015, pneumonia and influenza deaths in Utah spiked briefly above the epidemic level each year, according to the most recent Utah Influenza Report, with the percentage of deaths attributable to those two causes reaching nearly 14 percent.

Flu vaccinations are available at public health departments in Washington, Iron, Beaver, Kane and Garfield counties and in Mesquite at low or no cost. See information below.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, getting an annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect against the flu.

Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations, CDC officials said.

flu-antiviral-medsThe more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from the flu.

Flu vaccinations are most strongly encouraged for certain groups who are especially susceptible to complications from the flu, including:

  • Those with certain medical conditions including asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Children younger than 5 years, especially those younger than 2.
  • People 65 years and older

People who care for or live with those at risk should be also be immunized.

Prevention

According to the CDC, there are several measures people can take to prevent influenza and other “germs” from spreading.

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from other people to keep them from getting sick, too.
  • Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick to keep others from catching your illness.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean your hands – washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when people touch something that is contaminated with germs and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits by cleaning and disinfecting surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

Resources

  • Call the Southwest Utah Public Health Department at 435-673-3528 or visit the organization’s website.
  • Find out what illnesses are active in our area at IHC GermWatch.
  • Report your cold or flu to the health department here.
  • Report a foodborne illness to the health department here.
  • Centers for Disease Control influenza prevention page.

Immunization clinics

Vaccinations are available at public health department clinics for $20 per shot, or at no charge with proof of insurance from these providers: Altius, DMBA, adult Medicaid, Medicare (depending on HMO plan), PEHP, SelectHealth, Tall Tree, or United Healthcare.

No appointment is needed; photo ID is required for all services. For more information, maps to locations and downloadable intake forms see the Southwest Utah Health Department’s immunization webpage.

Washington County
The Washington County Public Health Department is located at 620 S. 400 East in St. George; contact by telephone at (435) 673-3528.

  • Monday, Wednesday and Thursday: 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 1–5:30 p.m.
  • Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Iron County
The Iron County Public Health Department is located at 260 E. 2000 North, Cedar City; contact by telephone at (435) 586-2437.

  • Monday, Wednesday and Thursday: 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 1–5:30 p.m.
  • Friday: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Kane County
The Kane County Public Health Department is located at 445 N. Main Street in Kanab; contact by telephone at (435) 644-2537. Clients are seen on a walk-in basis as time allows – call first to ensure nurse availability.

  • Monday, Wednesday and Thursday: 7:30 a.m. to noon, 1-5:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday: 1–5:30 p.m.
  • Every other Friday: 8 a.m. to noon, 1-5 p.m.

Garfield County
The Garfield County Public Health Department is located at 601 E. Center in Panguitch; contact by telephone at (435) 676-8800. Clients are seen on a walk-in basis as time allows – call first to ensure nurse availability.

  • Monday and Thursday: 8:30 a.m. to noon, 1-4:30 p.m.

Beaver County
The Beaver County Public Health Department is located at 75 W. 1175 North in Beaver; contact by telephone at (435) 438-2482. Clients are seen on a walk-in basis as time allows – call first to ensure nurse availability.

  • Tuesday and Wednesday: 7:30 a.m. to noon, 1-5:30 p.m.
  • Every other Friday: 8 a.m. to noon, 1- 5 p.m.

Clark County – Mesquite

The Mesquite Public Health Center is located at 830 Hafen Lane in Mesquite.

  • Tuesday and Thursday, 9:30 a.m. noon, 1-3 p.m.

Ed. note: Viewpoints vary on the wisdom of vaccinations and immunization; analysis of the topic is beyond the scope of this report.

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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