Flu vaccines available soon

CDC says all school-age children should be immunized


Flu clinics

The Steamboat Springs office of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association will offer weekly flu clinics from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting Oct. 14. The VNA also hosts weekly clinics starting Oct. 9 and running through November, from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursdays at Steamboat Springs High School.

Vaccines for children ages 6 months to 18 years are available on a sliding-scale basis as much as $14. Adult vaccines cost $22 for a flu shot and $25 for flu mist; mist is available to adults ages 19 to 49.

Falling in line with a recommendation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado public health organizations are encouraging all school-age children to be immunized against influenza for the 2008-09 flu season.

By providing vaccine to all children ages 18 and younger, organizations such as the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association can slow the spread of the infectious upper respiratory disease, said Janice Poirot, a public health nurse at the Steamboat VNA office.

"The greater protection we have in the community in general means we have 'herd immunity,' so there is going to be less circulation of the flu," Poirot said.

Margaret Huffman, a public health nurse consultant in the immunization program at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, was on the advisory committee that recommended all school-age children receive vaccines.

"Research has typically shown that when influenza enters a community, it's usually in the school-age population first," Huffman said. "So we're trying to stop influenza dead in its tracks."

Very young children, the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions are considered to be at high risk for influenza infection, Huffman said. In order to protect that population, it is important to vaccinate those people they come into contact with, she said.

"If you look at it like a thermometer : my elderly father receives, say, 60 percent from his flu vaccination, so I get a flu vaccination to help with the other 40 percent that his immune system doesn't respond to," Huffman said.

Vaccines already are available at some private practices. The Steamboat VNA office starts public flu clinics Oct. 9. With an estimated 143 million to 146 million doses of influenza vaccine available nationally this flu season, Huffman said the possibility for immunization is at an all-time high.

"I believe it's just been expanded to meet the demand," she said of vaccine availability. "We've been increasingly, increasingly ramping that up every year. We want to be able to have enough vaccine to say that everyone who wants a flu vaccine can get a flu vaccine, and that is the case this year."

The flu has a wide timeframe for infection, Poirot said. The VNA recommends immunization in October or November. The flu season typically peaks in February and can run through April.

- To reach Margaret Hair, call 871-4204

or e-mail mhair@steamboatpilot.com.


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