“The flu shot cannot give you the flu — period,” said Sarah Cooper.
Cooper should know, since she’s the director of nursing at the Highland County Health Department.
“It takes about two weeks for the influenza vaccine to take effect,” she said, “so if you were exposed to the virus either before or shortly after you got the shot, that’s how you ended up with the flu.”
What about those that got the shot, and then came down with the flu a month or so later?
Cooper told the Times-Gazette that before the flu season begins, scientists do their research to see what particular strain of influenza is most likely to be a problem.
“We saw this a couple of years ago where a different strain emerged,” she said. “But the good news is even if you got the flu shot and the strain is different, the symptoms won’t be as severe and you won’t be as ill.”
Cooper encouraged everyone to get immunized so you’re not only protecting yourself, but others in the community.
“There are a lot of people battling cancer, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis, and their immune system is compromised, so keep them in mind when getting the vaccine this year,” she said.
While the focus is on people to get their annual flu shot, there are also vaccines for shingles, pneumonia and a host of other ailments.
People at greater risk are not just those over 65 years old, but anyone at any age that may have diabetes, heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or COPD for short.
The health department is not only being proactive in the annual flu shot campaign, but also in the ongoing drug problem that has hit the nation, and Ohio in particular.
“Hepatitis A is a nationwide outbreak,” she said. “Our sister counties around us are having a hard time coping with it, but Highland County isn’t as severe right now, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.”
Hepatitis causes inflammation of the liver, and those infected may think they have the flu since the disease has flu-like symptoms, but also causes a yellowish appearance of the skin.
While Hepatitis B and C are mainly transmitted by contact with blood, Hepatitis A can be prevented by hand washing or using hand sanitizers.
Because of that, patrons at this year’s Highland County Fair will see many more hand sanitization stations throughout the fairgrounds.
“Last year, Clinton County had an outbreak of swine flu in their pig barn, and one thing that came out of their investigation was it could’ve been prevented by adequate hand washing throughout their grounds,” Cooper said.
Despite the benefits, there are those that are still on the fence about getting the annual flu vaccine.
To Cooper, those benefits outweigh the risks.
“What’s it going to hurt?” she asked. “The likelihood that you’re going to be helped by it is greater than the fact that without the shot, you’ll probably get the flu at some point this winter.”
Cooper noted that once the flu shot is administered, a person will probably experience mild symptoms of a low grade fever and minor body aches for three to five days as the body builds up immunity.
“The good thing is most insurance covers these injections,” she said. “These diseases are preventable so you’re saving the insurance company money in the long runsince you’re not ending up in the emergency room.”
For those with minimal or no insurance, the out-of-pocket cost at the health department is $25.
However, there are programs in place where, if a person can’t afford it, it can be free of charge simply by calling the health department to see if they qualify.
The health department has walk-in shot clinics Mondays from 1-4 p.m. for those that want to drop by. Otherwise, appointments can be made throughout the week by calling 937-393-1941.
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.