Health officials recommend flu vaccinations

Freedom New Mexico: Liliana Castillo Lockwood Elementary School fourth grader Jacob Garcia of Clovis said the flu mist felt “funny” but it was better than a flu shot. The flu mist is a live virus and intended for people between the ages of 2 and 49 with no underlying health issues.

Liliana Castillo and Alisa Boswell

Nursing staff at the Portales and Clovis schools took half the time and gave much less pain administering flu vaccines to students this year.

Flu refers to illnesses caused by a number of different influenza viruses.

Both districts received only doses of the flu mist this year, which is a live vaccine.

Portales Municipal Schools head nurse Helen Clabaugh said the New Mexico Department of Health bought the vaccine for the district so her department had no control over which type of vaccine they could give. Director of Health Services for Clovis Municipal Schools Rhonda Sparks said the same.

“It’s important for students to get the vaccination because there is a lot of illness going around and it provides some immunity for the flu season,” Clabaugh said. “It helps people stay healthy so we don’t pass the illness to each other.”

Giving a live vaccine, as opposed to the dead virus found in a shot, means that people with asthma, diabetes or any other immune suppressing disease can’t receive the vaccine.

This year, the flu vaccine is a combination of two influenza A strains, H1N1 and H3N2 and influenza B. Tom Skinner with the Center for Disease Control said vaccines are made for strains that presented the most last year.

Skinner said that for the first time the CDC is recommending that everyone over the age of six months get vaccinated.

“In past years, we tended to target our vaccinations to those that are at the highest risk for the biggest complications from flu,” Skinner said. “And those in contact with them.”

Skinner said the CDC realized that the vaccine will benefit everyone and that manufacturers are making more of it.

Skinner said each flu season is unique and the CDC doesn’t predict how the flu season will progress.

“There has been some activity on a very low level in various parts of the country,” Skinner said. “What we’ve seen is a good match on what we expected to circulate and what’s in our vaccines.”

Skinner said because flu activity is low, now is a good time to get the vaccine.

Sparks said getting a flu vaccination is one piece of flu prevention. She said it’s important to wash hands, cover coughs, stay home when sick and keep kids home when sick to protect yourself and those around you.

Tersa Bonifant of Roosevelt General Hospital said flu spreads by the droplet, so someone who contracts the flu and sneezes around others could give them the flu. Bonifant said the illness could easily be contracted from a table or desk surface also.

Bonifant said it is even easier to get the flu shot this year, because the vaccine for H1N1 flu and the vaccine for seasonal flu are included together in one shot this year, as opposed to last year when they were two separate shots.

“You’re here to protect yourself, your family, your patients and all those around you,” said Bonifant. “So it is our responsibility to protect ourselves and those around us by getting the flu shot.”

Bonifant said she has given more than 100 shots since the beginning of October. She said the number of people coming to the hospital for flu shots this year is not any smaller than the number of people who came last year during the H1N1 pandemic.

Bonifant said a person can spread flu germs before they become sick and after they are better, so for the sake of everyone around you, you should always get the flu shot.

Fast facts

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:

• fever or feeling feverish/chills

• cough

• sore throat

• runny or stuffy nose

• muscle or body aches

• headaches

• fatigue

• Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.