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Health experts push vaccines

Although most residents receive influenza and pneumonia immunizations earlier in the season – Lawrence County Health Department officials recommend receiving immunizations by mid-November –  it is not too late to get protection from the winter season’s deadly infections.

Tuesday, November 30, 1999

Although most residents receive influenza and pneumonia immunizations earlier in the season – Lawrence County Health Department officials recommend receiving immunizations by mid-November –  it is not too late to get protection from the winter season’s deadly infections.

Residents considered in at-risk groups, such as senior citizens, should seriously consider the immunizations, local health professionals said.

"Anyone 65 or older should definitely receive a shot," said Salena Angis, a registered nurse at the county health department. "Also, anyone with chronic health problems of any kind should make it a point to receive a flu shot, as well as people who work around a lot of children."

Also, county residents who have been diagnosed with diabetes are at risk of serious health complications, and even death, from flu and pneumonia.

According to the county health department:

– People with diabetes are about three times more likely to die with complications of influenza (flu) and pneumonia than people without diabetes.

– The risk of hospitalization increases when additional risk factors exist, such as the presence of cardiovascular disease, renal disease and being more than 65 years old, which is the case for many people with diabetes.

–  From 10,000 to 30,000 people with diabetes will die each year nationwide from complications of flu and pneumonia.

– Pneumococcal pneumonia has the highest mortality rate, yet only a third of people with diabetes have ever been vaccinated with a pneumonia shot, leaving a huge majority unprotected against pneumococcal pneumonia.

"Basically as far as our big outreach clinics we were done with that last week, but people can still come to the health department from 8:30 in the morning until 4 p.m. in the evening," said Paula Curtis, a registered nurse. "They can receive vaccinations against influenza and pneumonia and other assistance as well."

Receiving a new vaccination each year is important because the vaccine provided to health departments throughout the state is new each year –  the influenza virus usually changes every year and the level of immunity that a person has can decrease, she said.

Many people might be reluctant to receive the immunization shots for fear of the vaccine causing them to become ill, but that is not the case, health officials said.

Influenza vaccine contains only noninfectious viruses and therefore cannot cause the influenza disease, Ms. Curtis said. The most frequent side effect of vaccination is soreness at the vaccination site that lasts up to two days, and such reactions are mild and rarely interfere with the ability to conduct usual daily activities, she said.

Anyone can receive the vaccine. The clinic accepts Medicare and Medicaid, department officials said, and no one is turned away, Ms. Curtis said.

For appointments and additional information, contact the county health department at 532-3962.