Getting a jump on the flu

In anticipation of another early and severe flu season, health officials are urging people to get their vaccinations soon.

Historically, flu vaccinations have been popular in October or November, said Marietta City Health Department public health nurse Jonni Tucker.

“They used to say that the immunity from the shot would only last six months so people waited until before the severe season,” said Tucker.

However, newer studies have shown the influenza vaccinations remain effective for a year, meaning an early flu shot is preferable, she added.

“Get a shot as soon as its available so you’re covered at the beginning of flu season too,” advised Tucker.

Last year’s flu season caught many people off guard, starting approximately four weeks earlier than normal and resulting in the most senior citizen influenza hospitalizations since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) began keeping those records during the 2005-2006 season.

Deaths attributed to pneumonia or influenza were also atypically high last year-the highest in nearly a decade, according to the CDC.

With that in mind, some residents are seeking early protection.

“I got the flu shot in October last year,” said Marietta resident Lisa Miller.

Lisa and daughter Kristy Miller, 11, were getting their shots during a vaccination clinic at the Marietta City Health Department Tuesday.

Though none of the Millers caught the flu last year, Lisa Miller said she thought it was prudent to get the vaccination a bit earlier this year.

Judy Hile, 67, of Marietta, and her sister had the same idea.

“We usually come in October or November, but we heard on the news it would be more prevalent this year. That’s why we’re here early,” said Hile, who was one of more than 50 people to take advantage of the Tuesday clinic.

The Washington County Health Department also has several vaccination clinics coming up around the county, including their annual drive-thru vaccination clinic, said Barb Piehowicz, director of nursing for the Washington County Health Department.

“We had talked about not offering the drive-thru clinic this year, but we’ve had so many calls about it that we’re going to have it,” she said.

The clinic will be offered at the county health department, at 342 Muskingum Drive, Oct. 14 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

People ages 18 and older can drive up and receive a vaccination while they are in their car, said Piehowicz.

In a further effort to combat a severe season, manufacturers are for the first time ever offering a vaccination that protects against four strains of the flu, instead of the three-strain vaccination that has always been available, said Tucker.

The new quadrivalent vaccine will not be as widely available as the common trivalent vaccine. According to the CDC, just over 20 percent of the 135 to 139 million doses of influenza vaccine produced this year will contain protection against the fourth strain of the virus.

The Marietta City Health Department offers vaccinations for children and adults on Mondays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and for adults on Tuesdays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Washington County Health Department offers the vaccination from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.