By Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer
The month of October brings pleasant changes in the form of shorter days and cooler weather. The beginning of fall, however, is also the onset of flu season.
Chris Minnick of the New Mexico Department of Health said flu shot shortages were not expected to be a worry this year. “We’re not expecting anything like last year,” Minnick said.
Last fall, Chiron Corp., a British company that manufactures the flu vaccine, lost its license because of problems at its plant, which cut the United States supply in half.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death. According to Center for Disease Control, 20 percent of the population gets the flu while more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications annually. Complications caused by the flu can include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical problems such as asthma.
The single best way to prevent contracting the virus is by getting a flu vaccination each fall, according to the CDC. The “flu shot” is an inactivated virus (containing killed virus) which is given by a needle. This shot is approved for people over six months of age, including healthy people and people who have chronic medical problems. According to the Center for Disease Control guidelines, individuals who are not considered high risk will have to wait until after Oct. 24 to receive the vaccine.
High risk individuals include people who are 65 and older, nursing home residents, those with chronic heart or lung conditions, people with lowered immune systems (including HIV), pregnant women, children on aspirin therapy and anyone with compromised respiratory function.
Employees of the City of Clovis and Curry County will have the opportunity to receive their flu shots at an upcoming health fair. Director of Personnel Lance Pyle said he goes before the Curry County Commission each year to request approval for the purchase of 100 vaccines.
“We want to keep our employees healthy, so they can be at work and be productive,” Pyle said.
Pyle said it is more important for some workers to be vaccinated depending on their work environment. “It is very important for detention center employees to get a flu shot,” Pyle said. “If they get sick, they could spread it to the inmates.”
Minnick agrees the detention center workers should definitely receive a flu shot.
“Healthcare workers who have direct contact with patients and caregivers of children should also get their shot as soon as possible,” Minnick said. The representative from the New Mexico Department of Health advised citizens check with their healthcare provider about whether or not they should be administered a flu shot.
Area residents can receive a flu shot at Walgreens from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 26. Albertsons grocery store will also offer flu shots from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 26 and Nov. 13.