Flu shot clinic, drug take-back events planned
The Barton County Health Department is sponsoring a flu shot clinic for people of all ages from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the department, 1300 Kansas Ave., in Great Bend. For most people there is no out-of-pocket cost because Medicare and insurance will be billed.
This is being held in conjunction with the county’s drug take-back day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s being sponsored by Health Department and Barton County Sheriff’s Office, and it will be a drive-through drug drop-off on the corner of Kansas Street and Lakin Avenue in Great Bend.
“County residents are urged to collect their unused and expired medications and take advantage of the safe drug disposal,” Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider said.
Editor’s note: The Barton County Health Department is holding a special flu shot clinic Saturday, Oct. 28. This is the second story in a two-part series outlining the impact influenza has on Barton County and what county health officials are doing about it.
BY DALE HOGG
Barton County Health Director Shelly Schneider said her keys to fighting the flu are lots of education and making sure as many county residents as possible get vaccinated.
“We will be doing a lot of outreach, holding clinics and offering extended hours at the Health Department,” she said. With the impending influenza season looming, she and her department are ready.
The Barton County Health Department will sponsor a flu shot clinic for people of all ages from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday at the department, 1300 Kansas Ave., in Great Bend. Medicare and insurance will be billed.
This follows outreach efforts held in September throughout Barton County in Claflin, Odin, Beaver, Susank, Galatia, Olmitz, Albert and Pawnee Rock. More in-office pushes will be scheduled in the future.
There is also no charge for home visits to administer flu shots to those who are home-bound.
“We haven’t heard there is going to be a shortage of vaccine,” Schneider said. “We have a very good supply here.”
The BCHD is using Quadrivalent vaccine (which includes four strains) which offers more protection than Trivalent flu vaccines (with three strains), she said.
“Some people think they will get sick from the vaccine,” she said, but that is a myth. “This is a dead virus.”
There may be a reaction, but that is a good thing. That means the shot is working.
There are about 27,000 residents in Barton County and during the past flu season, the Health Department administered 3,000 flu shots. This doesn’t included vaccines given by other providers who don’t report their totals, making the flu immunization rate tough to track.
“It’s all about how we can get ahead of this,” she said. “The Barton County Health Department is doing what it can to prevent a flu outbreak.”
The Health Department is also offering longer hours. It opens at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday through Friday, and is open until 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, and Friday, and until 7:30 p.m. on Thursday.
For more information on the vaccine or for other questions, call the Health Department at 620-793-1902.
A matter of concern
Depending on the severity of the influenza season, 5 to 20 percent of the population may get influenza each year, Schneider said. During the peak of the 2016-2017 influenza season in Kansas, approximately 10 percent of all health care visits in clinics were due to influenza-like illness. This number is continuing to climb every year.
According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, influenza or pneumonia contributed to or was the direct cause of 903 deaths among Kansas residents during the 2016-2017 influenza season. Influenza and pneumonia were in the top 10 leading causes of death in 2016 in Kansas.
Flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months and seem to peak in February. In fact, they may start as early as October and, in some cases, continue through May. The Influenza vaccine has protection that will last approximately nine months, so it is not too early to receive your protection.
Additional ways to avoid spreading influenza include covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze, washing your hands and staying home when you are sick.
What about the so-called “herd effect?”
“We can only expect so much protection from herd immunity,” Schneider said.
This is when a critical portion of a community is immunized against a contagious disease and most members are protected because there is little opportunity for an outbreak. Even those who are not eligible for certain vaccines get some protection because the spread is contained.
But, “there are more bacteria that are antibacterial resistant,” she said. This could diminish the “herd effect.”
“That’s what scares me,” she said. “Resistance to antibiotics is a public health crisis. That could be a problem down the road.”
The bigger picture
Sure, the shot protects the individual, but there is more to it than that, Schneider said.
“You have to think of the impact of flu on people with compromised immunities,” she said. “You have protect the people around you.”
Nearly all persons six months and older are recommended to receive a flu vaccine every year. Vaccination is especially important for protecting those at high risk for serious flu complications, including young children, pregnant women, adults 65 years and older, and anyone with chronic health conditions like asthma, heart disease, and diabetes.
Those caring for, or in regular contact with, an infant less than 6 months of age should also be immunized. At this age, babies are too young to be vaccinated and are more vulnerable to complications from influenza.
Symptoms of the flu include: fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections and dehydration; the flu might also worsen other chronic conditions.
“Influenza is the gateway to pneumonia,” which can lead to more serious health problems and complications, Schneider said.