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Front Page » December 14, 2004 » Local News » Public health agencies lift flu vaccination restrictions
Published 3,952 days ago

Public health agencies lift flu vaccination restrictions

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Sun Advocate reporter

Restrictions on the flu vaccine have been lifted and the vaccinations are now available to all members of the public at the Southeastern Utah Health District (SUHD).

Prior to Thanksgiving, the Utah Department of Health had loosened flu vaccine restrictions, enabling adults 50 to 64 years of age and providers of essential community services like firefighters, emergency medical technicians, law enforcement officers and teachers to get the flu shot.

The vaccine had previously been limited to high risk priority groups, including:

•Children six months to 23 months of age.

�Adults 65 years of age and older.

•Persons 2 to 64 years of age with chronic medical conditions.

•Pregnant women.

•Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities

•Children six months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin therapy.

•Health workers with direct patient care.

The shortage was caused when Chiron, a major supplier of flu vaccine, discovered a contamination in limited batches of the 2004 supply, according to the United States Food and Drug Administration.

Although only 4.5 million out of approximately 46 million doses were considered contaminated, the FDA determined that using the remainder of the vaccine would be unwise.

As a result, many high-risk groups in Carbon County spent hours waiting in lines during the early flu season for the limited supply of vaccine. SUHD Nursing Director Joyce Pierce said some high-risk persons were even forgoing the vaccination to assure that others received it.

"We were worried because some of the high risk groups were saying they weren't going to get it so that others could," commented Pierce.

Now, the majority of high-risk groups have received the flu vaccination and plenty of shots remain for the public. Pierce said all community members are encouraged to come in for vaccination as a way to prevent illness as well as the spread of the virus.

Flu vaccination hours will be 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. every day at the Southeastern Utah Health District at 28 South 100 East in Price. The district will also have morning clinics on Thursdays from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.

For Carbon County residents who do not wish to receive the flu vaccination, several measures can be taken to reduce the risk of catching the virus. The preventative measures include:

�Avoiding close contact with people who are sick and avoid others when sick.

�Washing hands often. Use warm running water with soapy lather and rub for at least 20 seconds. Wash the front and back of hands, as well as between fingers and under nails. Dry hands thoroughly with clean towel.

�Covering mouth and nose with tissue when coughing or sneezing.

�Staying home when sick.

�Using alternative greetings to handshaking during the flu season.

•When it's cold outside, spend the majority of the time inside.

�Opening windows at least once a day to let germs out and fresh air in.

�Following a good housekeeping schedule and disinfecting in the proper way.

For example, people should disinfect food preparation and eating surfaces on a regular basis.

Carbon County residents who think they have influenza may want to visit a doctor within 24 hours. The flu is a very contagious viral infection of the nose, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs, indicates the health department. There are two main types of influenza virus, A and B. Each type includes different strains which tend to change each year, stated the health department.

Typical symptoms of influenza include fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, stuffy or runny nose, cough sore throat and general weakness. These symptoms usually appear one to five days after a person is exposed to the virus, pointed out the health department.

The flu is spread through contact with droplets from the nose and throat of an infected person during coughing and sneezing. According to UDOH, the contagious period varies, but probably begins the day before symptoms appear and lasts for about a week.

Prescription antiviral medications can reduce the duration of flu if taken within two days after symptoms begin. For residents who get the flu, UDOH recommends rest and plenty of liquids. Flu sufferers should also avoid using alcohol and tobacco, and should take medication to relieve the symptoms.

UDOH recommends that individuals 65 years of age and older or those who have long-lasting medical problems also receive the pneumonia vaccine. Pneumonia is a life-threatening complication resulting from influenza. Pneumonia vaccine, which is readily available, can be given year round and is usually given just once in a lifetime.

"Although most people recover from the disease within one week, some have life-threatening complications such as pneumonia and may need to be hospitalized," concluded the health department. "Approximately 20,000 people die each year in the United States from influenza or related complications."

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