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Nation mobilized for Ebola, but flu prevention is bigger concern

November 25, 2014

Free and low-cost flu vaccinations widely available

TACOMA, Wash. – While the nation’s health system has mobilized to prepare for Ebola, it’s the flu that remains our greater threat. And throughout Pierce County, flu vaccinations are widely available to residents of all ages, with many free and low-cost options.

The flu is more than a bad cold: people can suffer with fever, coughing, sore throat and body aches for several days. And it can be deadly. Annually, as many as 49,000 die from the flu — including 10 Pierce County residents last flu season.

The best way to protect yourself, your loved ones and those around you from the flu is to be immunized.

“Getting a yearly flu vaccination — through a shot or nasal spray — is the single most important means of protection against the flu,” said Nigel Turner, Communicable Disease Control division director with Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department.

Annual flu immunizations not only reduce illness, they also help protect vulnerable people such as infants, the elderly and immune-compromised individuals. Immunizations also keep doctor visits and sick days down, and they can prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths, according to Turner.

Getting a flu vaccination is especially important for people at high risk, including children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and those with chronic conditions, including asthma, diabetes, heart disease and neurologic conditions. Babies under six months are too young to get vaccinated, but people in close contact with babies should get vaccinated to protect the infants.

Vaccine availability in Pierce County

Flu vaccines are available at many locations, including health care professionals’ offices, pharmacies and some local health agencies. The Health Department distributes free flu vaccine for children to medical providers throughout Pierce County. Talk to your medical provider for more information.

You also can visit www.tpchd.org/flu for more information on the flu, to download an FAQ on flu immunizations, and to find flu vaccine in your community, including free and low-cost options. And visit www.tpchd.org/immunizations for information on vaccination clinics for adults and children, many provided through partnerships with Mary Bridge Children's Hospital Immunization Services and the Franciscan Health System.

Other steps to prevent spread of the flu

In addition to getting a flu vaccination, other steps you can take to prevent or reduce the spread of the influenza virus include:

  • Washing hands — Frequent and proper hand washing is one the most effective ways to reduce the spread of germs. Wash with soap and warm water, scrubbing all parts of your hands and wrists for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water isn’t easily accessible.
  • Staying home if you’re sick — Viruses such as the flu spread quickly. Don't share your germs with coworkers and classmates.
  • Covering coughs — Use your elbow or a disposable tissue, not your hand, to cover coughs.
  • Keeping it clean — Use sanitizing wipes or spray to clean counters, door knobs, phone handsets, computer keyboards and mice, and other surfaces you touch frequently.

Contacts:
Edie Jeffers, Communications Manager
(253) 798-2853, (253) 405-6822 (cell/text), ejeffers@tpchd.org
Nigel Turner, Communicable Disease Division Director
(253) 798-6057, niturner@tpchd.org

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