According to the Big Horn County Health Department and the clinic providers at North Big Horn Hospital, as of this week, no confirmed cases of the flu have been reported in the county, but all that is expected to change soon, according to the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, with both predicting a high incidence of flu this season.
World Health, the CDC and most medical providers recommend flu shots for most individuals (six months of age or older) as a preventative measure against the virus, which is expected to rear its ugly head soon. Several convenient flu shot clinics are scheduled to make following that good advice as easy as possible for citizens of North Big Horn County.
North Big Horn Hospital Clinic is offering its annual “Café Influenza” drive-through flu shot clinic on Friday, Oct. 6, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the parking lot at the hospital. Nurses manning the special drive-through clinic will administer the shot to participants 18 years of age or older right in their vehicles.
The clinic is also offering flu shots to children under 18 years of age by appointment only on three consecutive Fridays, Oct. 13, 20 and 27, from 1 to 4 p.m. The clinic is also offering a clinic for children on Saturday, Nov. 4, from 9 a.m. to noon. In many cases, shots are billable to insurance; otherwise, the cost is $42.
Shots will also be offered at the NBHH Women’s Health event on Oct. 12 at 5:30 p.m. Shots administered at the event cost $32, but are not billable to insurance.
According to Nick Lewis, the mobile unit coordinator for the hospital district, many local businesses have also made arrangements for vaccinations to be administered through the hospital’s mobile unit to individuals at their workplace, including many local plants and both local school districts.
The Big Horn County Health Department is also offering flu shots at a special clinic at the North Big Horn Senior Center on Friday, Oct. 6, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. They will also offer a flu shot clinic for the Frannie Lunch Bunch on Tuesday, Oct. 10, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the old school in Frannie. The health department has tentatively planned a flu shot clinic in Byron on Oct. 18, as well.
Flu shots are also available at the County Health Office in Lovell, located at 213 East 3rd Street, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from 9 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 4 p.m. Though the shots are offered on a drop-in basis, calling is recommended, since the office has a small staff and is closed during the lunch hour.
The shot is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP and many private insurers. The County Health Department will bill insurers. There is a charge of $30 for those who do not have insurance.
CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as “the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses” for all individuals 6 months of age and older. It is also recommending that individuals get a flu shot by the end of October, if possible. CDC is recommending only injectable influenza vaccines this season. Three types vaccines are available this year, providing various levels of protection, including a high potency vaccine recommended for some individuals more than 65 years of age.
The CDC recommends that individuals considered to be of “high risk” like young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease get the vaccine as soon as possible. Additionally, caregivers for high risk individuals should get the shot to keep from spreading flu to those most at risk, especially people caring for children under 6 months of age, since those children are at high risk but are too young to receive the vaccination.
The CDC recommends those with flu-like symptoms to stay home for at least 24 hours or more after fever has returned to normal.
Those without symptoms are cautioned to avoid close contact with sick people. Those who get the flu are asked to limit contact with others a much as possible and to cover their nose and mouth with a tissue when they cough or sneeze.
Another important defense is to wash hands often and use an alcohol-based hand rub. The CDC also recommends cleaning and disinfecting any surfaces or objects that may be contaminated with flu virus germs.
It also recommends the use of prescribed anti-viral drugs such as TamiFlu at the onset of the flu to lessen the intensity and duration of symptoms.
By Patti Carpenter