Health officials: It's not too late to get flu shot

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— It's not too late to get a flu shot, local health officials say.

"It's not too late at all," said Mary Dierdorff, nurse manager at Steamboat Medical Group. "It's best for locals to come in and get it now."

The flu season does not peak until the end of January or February. It is recommended that people get flu shots through December and into January. There is still plenty of the vaccine to go around.

So far, there appears to be a low level of influenza circulating in the United States, said Janice Poirot, who works in public health for the Visiting Nurse Association.

"We have not seen any cases come in yet," Dierdorff said.

She said Steamboat Medical Group has not even had to test anyone for flu yet.

"That's pretty unusual," Dierdorff said. "Every year is different."

"So far it looks like a pretty slow season," Poirot said.

But things could change. To get a flu shot, people should contact their health service provider. The shots are available by appointment from the Visiting Nurse Association. The shots are covered by Medicare Part B, and are available for $20, through VNA. The cost for children is a maximum of $15. For those afraid of needles, Poirot recommends FluMist, a nasal spray.

Getting the flu shot is most important for those in the high-risk categories - children younger than five, everyone older than 65, those with chronic health conditions, pregnant women and those who work in health care or those around lots of different people.

"We really encourage young children to get their vaccines early," Poirot said.

That is because children who get the vaccine for the first time need to get it twice. It is not effective until the second dose, which is given a month after the first dose.

Poirot also said there is a major myth that needs to be dispelled when it comes to the flu shot.

"You cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine," Poirot said. "It's biologically impossible because the virus is dead."

Also, people need to realize "it is not just about you," Poirot said.

People should wash their hands. Poirot added that the flu bug can be spread the day before people start to feel sick.

"And when you are sick, stay home," Poirot said. "All you do is spread the germs around."

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