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The Flu Vaccination
Written by: Scott Ludwig MD ABEM, Putnam General Hospital

Eatonton, GA - September 27, 2013.
Putnam General Hospital will be having its annual Drive Thru to Stop the Flu on Saturday, October 19th beginning at 8:00 a.m. at the hospital. There will be 800 free flu shots available and will be on a first come, first serve basis. Influenza, commonly known as "the Flu" is an infectious disease found in birds and mammals caused by a virus easily spread from one person to another by respiratory droplet and nasal secretions. Unlike the common "stomach flu" or gastroenteritis, Influenza is characterized by high fever, severe body aches and headaches, general weakness, runny nose, sore throat, and harsh cough. It may produce nausea and vomiting, especially in children, but these symptoms are not predominant. Uncomplicated Influenza generally lasts 7-10 days.

Influenza is found around the world in seasonal epidemics typically resulting in over 5 million cases each year with 250-500 thousand deaths. It accounts for 50 thousand or more deaths in the U.S every year. The flu virus changes each year due to what is called antigenic shift. This means that the flu shot provided in previous years will provide minimal to no protection for this year's strains. Getting a flu shot every fall is your best protection and is recommended for everyone over age 6 months but especially for "High risk groups" including all children, those over 60, all health care workers, and those with chronic illnesses such as asthma, COPD, diabetes, heart disease and those who are immuno-compromised.

Flu shots don't give you the flu and have proven to be exceptionally safe. Some individuals will suffer mild cold after vaccination but this only means that the shot has been effective in arousing your immune system to protect you from the real thing. The other mainstay in flu prevention is obsessive hand hygiene and covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. It is appropriate for you to ask others to do so as well. Antiviral medicine such as Tamiflu can reduce the severity of the flu symptoms but does not provide a cure and should not be used if symptoms have been present more than 48 hours as it is not likely to help. Treatment consists of aggressive control of fever with non-aspirin medications such as Acetaminophen and Ibuprofen, careful, continuous hydration and rest. Patient's generally can treat themselves at home but should consult a doctor if severe difficulty breathing develops or hydration cannot be maintained. If you catch the flu, don't play the tough guy. Please stay home until your symptoms have cleared and save your co-workers, classmates, and friends from exposure.

If you have ever had real Influenza, you know you don't want to get it again. Influenza hurts and Influenza kills. Please get vaccinated this year!