Health officials encourage getting flu shots
A guide to this year's flu shotsNew options for influenza vaccinations are available, but some may be in limited supply. Doctors say timing is important, so if people can't find their preferred option, they should get a flu shot of another type.
The trivalent shot: The long standard flu shot to protect against three strains of flu virus. It is suitable for people ages 6 months and up.
The quadrivalent shot: New this year, a fourth strain of virus is added to the usual three, which should be especially helpful for protecting children from flu.
The nasal spray: This form of vaccination, called FluMist, is popular for use with children. It will be updated this year to include the quadrivalent vaccine. It shouldn't be used by pregnant women because the spray contains live, albeit weakened, viruses.
Fluzone High-Dose vaccine: A trivalent shot used mainly for older people to give them a quick boost in immune response and protection.
Fluzone Intradermal vaccine: The shot uses a micro-needle that injects vaccine into the skin rather than the muscle. It's a good alternative for needle-phobic patients.
Recombinant influenza vaccine: The vaccine, called FluBlok, is available for the first time this season. It is made without the use of eggs, and is considered a good alternative for people with serious egg allergies. It is licensed for adults between 18 and 49.
The Manchester Health Department reminds the community that adult flu vaccine is available:
Tuesday, Oct. 22, 3 to 5 p.m.
Thursday. Oct. 24, 9 to 11 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 25, 1 to 3 p.m.
Tuesday, Oct. 29, 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 31, 9 to 11 a.m.
Friday, Nov. 1, 1 to 3 p.m.
The clinics are held on a walk-in basis at the Manchester Health Department offices, 1528 Elm St., (across from Pappy's Pizza. Entrance is in the back of building.) The fee is $20.
Call 624-6466 for additional information.
"I like to think it helps, but who knows," said the 43-year-old truck driver, who said he comes in contact with public surfaces across New England on his delivery route. "I still get sick about twice a year."
While state health officials report they have already processed paperwork on the first official case of seasonal flu reported in New Hampshire this fall, they say it's too early to know how many in the state may become sick this season.
"We encourage everyone to get a vaccine shot," said Beth Daley, chief of infectious disease surveillance for the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. "No vaccine is perfect, but it reduces your chances of getting the flu."
There are new types of flu vaccine now available, offering protection against a greater number of flu-virus strains. A new vaccine is available for people with severe allergies to eggs, which are used in traditional flu-vaccination production. And for people afraid of hypodermic needles, a micro-needle, available since last year, injects vaccine with just a skin prick.
Montero said, "It's important for people to remember to take steps to prevent becoming ill; most important is vaccination. It can take up to two weeks for your immune system to fully respond to the vaccine, so it's important to get the shot or nasal version of the vaccine as soon as possible."
New Hampshire provides free flu vaccines for residents aged 18 and under, which has translated into some of the highest vaccination rates in the country for that age group. Vaccination rates for the rest of the population are less than 50 percent.
Flu vaccines have traditionally offered protection against three kinds of viruses — two varieties of Type A viruses and one variety of Type B. This year, some vaccines contain a second variety of Type B virus, and some experts expect this version, dubbed a "quadrivalent" vaccine, to offer protection against the vast majority of Type B influenza infections.
Type A viruses cause the most severe flu symptoms, while children are especially vulnerable to Type B strains, according to the national Centers for Disease Control.
People with serious egg allergies have a new option this season. Flu viruses are typically cultured in hen's eggs. By adopting a different technology, a manufacturer has produced a flu vaccine without the use of eggs. The vaccine, called FluBlok, is designed for adults ages 18 to 49.
New Hampshire has ordered 130,000 doses of vaccine for children, with nearly 100,000 distributed to providers already. These include nasal sprays and vaccines administered via syringe.
The 2012-13 influenza season was moderately severe on the national level, with higher rates of hospitalization, and more reported deaths attributed to pneumonia and influenza compared with recent years. In New Hampshire, there were 44 influenza-associated deaths for 2012-13, which is the highest number recorded during a flu season since 1997. New Hampshire also reported three pediatric influenza-associated deaths.
MacDonald's fears about picking up germs in public places are shared by many, and well-founded. A survey released by Kimberly-Clark Pharmaceutical Corporation found 71 percent of gas pump handles and 68 percent of corner mailbox handles were highly contaminated with germs, most associated with a high risk of illness, as were 41 percent of ATM buttons and 43 percent of escalator rails.
The idea of public germs disgusts her so much that "I try to avoid public restrooms whenever I can," she said. "I don't need to get sick. I don't even like it when someone hands me their phone to look at a picture or text. I don't want to touch it."
"As your computer boots up, wipe down your desk and mouse," suggested Manchester Public Health Director Tim Soucy. He also advises swabbing conference tables between meetings.
Restaurant patrons should take precautions as well.
"I never thought about getting the flu using these," said Robert Riemer of Manchester, using a self-checkout lane at Walmart. "Considering how many other touch screens I use in other places, that sounds pretty nasty," said Riemer.
"I didn't know that. They give you wipes at some stores you can use, but I never really thought much of it," said Nicole Clark of Merrimack.
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