Flu vaccine season: what to know - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Flu vaccine season: what to know

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DUBUQUE (KWWL) -

Flu vaccines are on their way to health care providers across the US, and experts say: vaccinate early.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made some changes to flu vaccination recommendations this year. The CDC is recommending anybody over the age of six months get a vaccination, (barring any medial conditions that would prevent them from doing so).

This is different from past years, when the CDC placed highest priority on certain groups most at risk for contracting the flu.

This year, there will be an ample supply of vaccinations, manufacturers say, with 170 million vaccines for the US this flu season. That includes the injectable vaccines as well as the nasal spray form.

The nasal spray is a live but weakened strain of the virus and is available only for people between the ages of two and 50 years old.

The injection contains an inactivated flu virus.

Both forms of vaccine protect against the same several strains of flu virus, including H1N1.

Patty Dissell works in The Finley Hospital's employee health and wellness program in Dubuque and said Monday that many people mistake the "stomach bug" or even common cold for flu symptoms.

"Influenza is a serious illness," she countered. "You're in bed with respiratory symptoms for a week. You're sick. You have a fever. It's not anything like the common cold."

The Finley Hospital encourages all its employees to get vaccinated and maintains an annual employee vaccination rate in the upper 80 percent.

"An employee can be a vector or a carrier of the influenza virus before they're even showing symptoms, which means they can spread it to their patients, families, co-workers," Dissell said. "And this is a hospital. We have patients that are seriously ill."

Aside from getting vaccinated, flu prevention also boils down to common sense, Nan Colin said. She's the director of the Dubuque Visiting Nurse Association.

Prevention includes hand-washing, covering mouths and noses during sneezes and coughs and, "If they're sick: stay home," Colin said. "That's probably the most important thing. Once a person starts going to school or to work when they're sick, then they're just spreading the flu to other people."

Peak flu vaccination season is late-Sept. to early-Oct., but some health care providers have the vaccines right now.

"That's the advantage of getting the flu vaccine early in the season: so that you're protected and less likely to be exposed," Colin said.

So here's a bit of free advice from medical professionals, in case you haven't already caught it:

"Get your flu shot," Dissell said. "It's the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones."

"Get your flu shot early and wash your hands," Colin said.

Doing just that may end up saving you a fight with the flu.

Often, flu vaccines are available not only at doctors' offices, but also at community health clinics, VNA offices and local drug stores.

For more information about 2011-2012 flu season, check out the CDC Website and the Iowa Dept. of Public Health.

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