When it comes time to fighting the flu, the best defense is plenty of hand washing and, for some, getting a flu shot.
“Every year they come up with a new guess as to what antigens are going to show up in the virus,” explained Dr. David Hoffman of North Big Horn Hospital Clinic. “Essentially, what they are saying (for this year’s vaccine) is that it is the same vaccine as last year with the indication that it is still good to have a flu shot every year because your immunization falls off. So, it is still recommended that you have the vaccine even if you were vaccinated last year.”
The immunizations are delivered in two ways, either as a shot or inhaled. The inhaled version is not egg based like the shot version but contains a live virus. The inhaled version is recommended only for healthy individuals within a certain age range. Hoffman suggests that individuals consult their health care provider about which version of the immunization would be best for them, especially if they are allergic to eggs.
“Most vaccines are inactivated,” explained Hoffman. “They can’t cause disease. The biggest problem we have with vaccines is that people have allergic reactions to egg-based vaccination where eggs are used to cultivate the virus.”
Generally, the flu accompanies a change in the seasons. According to Hoffman, health providers in North Big Horn County see the flu sometimes in late fall, again in winter, and then sometimes again in the spring.
“You want to time it (getting the vaccine) so you get it before influenza hits the community,” said Hoffman. “So you have your immunity built up before it actually strikes.”
No shortages of the vaccine are anticipated like last year. The vaccine is available through special clinics or by appointment.
According to Hoffman, it is recommended that “everybody of all ages from six months and up get a flu shot.” He also recommends frequent hand-washing and that people who have the virus to wear masks in public to curtail its spread. He also recommends that people with the flu avoid others who may be vulnerable like infants, the elderly or those who have compromised immune systems.
“I think for what they are tailored to do, the flu shots work very effectively,” said Hoffman. He went on to qualify that statement, explaining that because of “antigenic drift” all strains of the virus are not covered in a particular vaccine, which makes it possible to still get the flu if it is a strain that is not covered by the shot given in a particular year.
“It’s a crap game basically, but it’s much better than not having any protection,” said Hoffman.
North Big Horn Hospital Clinic is offering a quick and convenient drive-up clinic on Friday, Oct. 7, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The clinic is called Café Influenza and individuals can stay in their vehicle, while hospital personnel come to them to administer the shot. The cost is $20 per shot with payment due at the time of service. Medicare/Medicaid patients need to bring their beneficiary card at the time of service. Children under 18 need an appointment. Other age groups do not.
The Senior Citizens Center in Lovell is also offering a walk-in flu shot clinic. The cost is also $20 per shot and Medicare/Medicaid patients need to follow the same procedure as above. The clinic will be held on Oct. 14 from 1 to 4 p.m. Shots will be administered by a public health nurse. The pneumonia vaccine will also be available for $50. Medicare will pay for one dose of this vaccine for those who are eligible.
The public health department will also be offering shots by appointment. To make an appointment call 548-6591.
By Patti Carpenter