Get ready for flu season

By KATIE MORGAN

As the end of September approaches, the weather has begun to turn chilly. For many Marlton residents, this means sore throats, stuffy noses, and the approach of flu season.

To prevent the spread of flu, area doctors recommend residents receive this year’s vaccine.

“Traditionally, we see the elderly and the very young,” said Burlington County Health Department Health Educator Holly Cucuzzella. “For the first time ever this year, the CDC is instead recommending that everyone gets vaccinated. We want to bring the overall immunity of the community up.”

Last year, H1N1 swept across the high school and college aged community, and people were advised to receive both a flu shot, and an H1N1 specific shot. This year, a single injection will contain vaccinations against three flu strains, including H1N1.

“Many people get the flu,” said Dr. Nishith Gami of Marlton. “Those at highest risk of complications are the young and the elderly. Everyone over 50 and below 24 years of age should be vaccinated.”

Cucuzzella feels that if everyone is vaccinated, it will prevent the spread of illness to people who are at highest risk. This group includes the elderly, the very young, the chronically ill and those with compromised immune systems.

“It isn’t really the flu we’re worried about with these high-risk people,” she said. “What we worry about is the secondary infections the flu causes. Pneumonia and other respiratory infections can result in hospitalization.”

A flu shot consists of inactive strains of each flu virus. When these strains are introduced to the body, the immune system reacts to the antigens, building antibodies against those particular strains. If an active strain later enters the body, the antibodies will fight it off. As a result of the immune system response, those who are vaccinated may experience some minor flu symptoms.

“Getting a flu shot cannot give you the flu,” said Gami. “The vaccine is a dead virus. The nasal spray vaccine that is available is a live vaccine, and that can sometimes give you the infection.”

Gami recommends that if you are pregnant, have a pregnant family member, are chronically ill or have an immune disorder, you do not receive the nasal spray vaccine.

“Mothers like the nasal spray because it means their children don’t have to get a shot,” he said. “The injection is, however, the safest way to be vaccinated.”

This year, for the first time, there is a high dose flu vaccine being offered to residents 65 and older.

“Science tells us that as people age their immune response gets lower,” said Cucuzzella. “It’s more difficult to develop an effective response.”

In response, Sanofi Pasteur, a pharmaceutical company, has created Fluzone High-Dose, an injection with four times the amount of flu antigens.

The High-Dose vaccine does not cause any increased side effects for senior citizens, and is offered free to those with a Medicare Part B primary insurance carrier.

To ensure Burlington County residents will all be receiving their flu shots, the County Health Department will be holding vaccination clinics throughout the coming months.

The High-Dose vaccine, solely for those 65 and older, will be offered Sept. 30 and Oct. 7 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Burlington Center Mall and Moorestown Mall.

For those whose primary is not Medicare Part B, the High Dose injection will cost $40.

Regular dose vaccination will be offered to all adults over 18 years of age at the following clinics:

• St. Issac Jogues Church in Evesham, Oct. 18 from 9:30–11:30 a.m.

• Burlington County Health Department in Westampton, Oct. 22 from 1–3 p.m.

• Evesham Township Senior Center- Gibson House, Oct. 28 from 9:30–11:30 a.m.

• Burlington County Health Department in Westampton, Oct. 29 from 1–3 p.m.

• Burlington County Health Department in Westampton, Nov. 5 from 1–3 a.m.

• Burlington County Health Department in Westampton, Nov. 12 from 1–3 p.m.

• Burlington County Health Department in Westampton, Nov. 19, 1–3 a.m.

Cucuzzella recommends a $15 donation for the regular shot.

For more information, residents can visit the Web site of the Burlington County Health Department.