Seasons are changing and the temperatures are dropping – but this means more than just the approach of the holidays. The Coastal Health District, which serves Bryan and surrounding counties, said the fall and winter months is the time to prevent the infection of influenza viruses, also known as the seasonal flu.
According to the Coastal Health District, the best protection for this contagious respiratory illness is an annual flu shot. Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May.
"Many people underestimate the flu. While most people who get sick will recover, the flu can be quite serious for young children, older adults, or people with other health problems," said Nurse Manager Joanne Burnsed of the Bryan County Health Department. "That’s why we encourage immunization for everyone who can get the flu shot. Get vaccinated to protect yourself, but also to protect the people around you."
Vaccinations are available at the Bryan County Health Department for a fee of $25; Medicaid and Medicare clients should bring their insurance information with them. The offices are located at 430 Ledford Street in Pembroke and 9665 Ford Avenue in Richmond Hill. The hours are Monday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Tuesday from 8 a.m.-6 p.m. and Wednesday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
"We’ve been getting a pretty good bit of people coming in to get shots" said Tammy Smith, administrative operations coordinator for the Pembroke office. Smith said she knows the flu shots will definitely be offered until the end of January, but could be extended through March.
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), anywhere from five to 20 percent of the national population contracts flu viruses, over 200,000 people are hospitalized due to flu complications and 36,000 die from the flu each year.
Flu symptoms can include a high fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches and stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, said the CDC.