Don't let the flu bug bite

As influenza season nears, officials stock up on shots

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Nurse Janice Poirot administers Robert Jones' annual flu shot as his wife, Evelyn, waits her turn at the VNA on Thursday.

Flu shot clinics

For a complete look at the VNA's flu shot clinics, visit www.nwcovna.org and click on "Flu Season 2006." Otherwise, check with your doctor or physician on the availability of flu shots at his or her office. Most local health clinics and doctors' offices offer flu shots. Shots range in price but usually cost no more than $20. Yampa Valley Medical Center does not offer flu shots to the public.

— A note from Children's Hospital in Denver recently arrived at the office of Pediatrics of Steamboat Springs.

The letter said the hospital has not treated any child for influenza this fall, but that message doesn't mean parents and children can forget about the dangers influenza outbreaks pose in Northwest Colorado.

"We will start routinely vaccinating in about a week," Dr. Ron Famiglietti said. "If you get it too early, your immunity wanes a bit toward the end."

Famiglietti, a pediatrician with Pediatrics of Steamboat Springs, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends all children between the ages of six months and five years receive a flu shot.

"There is a much higher incidence of complications of influenza in that group, like pneumonia and dehydration," Famiglietti said. "Second, kids in that age group are in daycare settings or have siblings and spread it to the other group. That has a lot to do with how these epidemics spread."

Any child or adult with an underlying chronic medical condition such as asthma also should be vaccinated. The CDC recommends pregnant women and adults ages 50 years and older be vaccinated against the flu as well.

The flu, or influenza, is a respiratory infection and can be most dangerous for those aforementioned groups.

"I think people are just understanding we can do something about it," Famiglietti said about the increased use of flu vaccines. "I think that's the case with a lot of respiratory infections."

Influenza is spread by respiratory droplets and contact with mucus membranes.

Frequent washing of hands is one of the best ways to decrease your chance of contracting the infection. Disinfecting kitchens, bathrooms or any other bacteria-prone areas on a regular basis is another tip to avoid getting sick.

Donela Burke, office manager at Steamboat Springs Family and Sports Medicine, said she has not heard any predictions for the severity of this flu season, but she knows a shortage of flu vaccines is not expected this year.

The recommended time to receive flu shots is between October and November.

Yampa Valley Medical Center does not offer vaccines to the public.

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association has received its shipment of flu vaccines. The shots cost $20 for adults and $15 or less for children. Medicare and Medicaid are accepted, and anyone 17 and younger must be accompanied by a parent or guardian to receive shots.

The clinics begin Wed-nesday with drop-in times at the South Routt Community Center.

- To reach Melinda Mawdsley, call 871-4208 or e-mail mmawdsley@steamboatpilot.com

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