The Pittsylvania-Danville Health District will offer free seasonal flu vaccine at a special clinic on Saturday, February 1, from 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the Danville Community Farmers’ Market located at 629 Craghead St. in Danville.
A limited supply of free influenza vaccines will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for everyone ages 3 and older.
The purpose of this exercise is to simulate a mass vaccination event in which the health department and local agencies would work together so community members could be vaccinated efficiently during a time of emergency. An example would be a worldwide outbreak of influenza - also known as an influenza pandemic. This vaccine is provided by the Virginia Department of Health, Office of Emergency Preparedness.
“We’ve already documented cases of influenza this season in the area, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health recommend vaccination each year for everyone 6 months and older,” said Scott J. Spillmann, MD, MPH, director, Pittsylvania-Danville Health District. “Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza and its potentially severe complications.”
“The timing and duration of flu seasons vary - they can occur from early fall to late spring - so you should get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Julia Gwaltney, RN, nurse manager for the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District. “It takes up to two weeks to develop the vaccine’s full protection.”
“In the commonwealth of Virginia, the flu season typically peaks in early January and continues through March. Getting a flu shot in January or February will help safeguard Virginia residents from the nuisance of influenza and the potentially life-threatening complications it causes,” said Chris Andrews, MPH, epidemiologist for the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District. “Get your flu shot! Protect yourself and others!”
Vaccination is especially important for people at higher risk for influenza complications, including:
- Pregnant and postpartum women, or those who will be pregnant during the influenza season;
- Persons over 65 years of age, including residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities;
- People who have chronic lung or heart problems, including asthma; and
- People who have other serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, anemia, cancer, weak immune systems (including those with HIV), or a seizure disorder.
To help prevent the spread of influenza to people in high-risk groups, those who live with people in a high-risk group and healthcare workers should also receive an annual influenza vaccine. Travelers to countries outside of the U.S. may also need to consider influenza vaccination, even at different times of the year.
Influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is a serious disease caused by the influenza virus that affects the respiratory tract. It is highly contagious and generally spreads from person-to-person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can be transmitted even before flu-like symptoms appear. A person usually becomes sick one to three days following exposure to the virus. Typical flu symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that influenza has resulted in as many as 49 million illnesses, up to 960,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 79,000 deaths annually in the U.S. since 2010.
To minimize your risk of contracting or transmitting the flu, follow these simple steps:
- Get vaccinated;
- Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds;
- Cover your cough, either by using a disposable tissue or coughing into your sleeve, not your hand; and
- Stay at home when you are sick.
For more information, call the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District at 434-766-9828 or visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/influenza-flu-in-virginia/.