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Health officials prepare for flu season

by Tonya Bina
Sky-Hi Daily News

It’s that time again: the threshold of flu season.

Doses of flu shots arrived Oct. 16 to help prevent the spread of the seasonal health menace.

“The great news is there is no shortage of the flu vaccine this year,” said Kym Colvin, Kremmling Memorial Hospital pharmacy consultant.

In past years, shortages limited the shots to the elderly and young children. Reasons for the short supply ranged from sterility to quality assurance issues among some manufacturers.

This year, production was ramped up and the vaccine is available earlier than in previous years, health officials say.

The window to get shots at the Kremmling Memorial Hospital, Timberline Family Practice and Mountain Valley Medical center will be from now until February.

“Some have been telling us that the shots don’t hurt so much this year,” said Bobby Carlomagno, registered nurse with Kremmling Memorial Hospital. Different ingredients were used in the production of the vaccine, which varies from year to year.

This early in the season, there have been no reported outbreaks of the flu in Colorado, according to the Center for Disease Control. Nationwide, seven states have reported a “low level” of flu.

But it’s not too early to get the flu shot. “The best time to get a flu shot is in November, ahead of the usual flu season,” advises the Colorado Department of Health and Environment. “The peak of flu season can occur anywhere from late December though March.” The vaccine takes two weeks to set in and is most effective for the next four months.

Grand County Public Health is organizing a free mass flu clinic on Nov. 17, not only to provide the vaccination to as many citizens it can, but also to have a dry run at serving the county in the event of a major medical emergency, such pandemic influenza.

The flu clinic will be made available by federal emergency preparedness funds and in cooperation with the Grand County Office of Emergency Management.

Brene Belew-LaDue, Grand County public health director, said she encourages the public to take part in the flu shot clinic so that health officials can gain the practice of doling out large amounts of vaccine in a short amount of time. The clinic will be open for four hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

“We’re hoping to serve 700 people or so to really test our system,” LaDue said. Both children and adults are welcome .

“We’ll more than likely be doing this type of exercise every other year.”

The clinic will also have information about a possible flu pandemic, caused by a genetic shift in a circulating strain of the flu that cannot readily be treated, causing an epidemic among large populations. Symptoms of pandemic flu are much more severe than seasonal flu viruses.

Intervals between previous pandemics have varied from 11 to 42 years, according to http://www.globalsecurity.org. Although pandemics are believed to have been occurring for centuries, the most recent pandemics were: 1918, the Spanish Influenza Pandemic, a catastrophe that killed at least 50 million people with a half million in the U.S. alone; in 1957 with the Asian Flu Pandemic, which resulted in about 69,800 deaths in the U.S.; and in 1968 with the Hong Kong Flu, which resulted in about 70,000 deaths in the U.S. and 1 million worldwide.

Seasonal flu differs in that it follows a predictable pattern, adequate supplies of antivirals are usually available, immunity can be built up from previous exposure and health systems usually can handle the volume of cases in a certain area, according to http://www.pandemicflu.gov.

City Market in Granby has seasonal flu shots available on Mondays and Fridays between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. for $28 apiece. The cost is covered by Medicare.

Pharmacists at City Market say the store will be offering the shots until it runs out. Supplies are plentiful, with at least a couple of hundred shots, they said.

“As far as we know, there will be no shortage,” said pharmacist Carl Marsh.


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