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Only one flu shot needed in 2010
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Last year, Americans who took the time to be vaccinated against the seasonal flu virus were later encouraged to receive a second vaccine, for the 2009 H1N1 flu strain. This year, one dose — delivered by injection or nasal spray — should handle all of the most anticipated strains of influenza, health experts report.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, "Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as vaccine is available this fall. While flu is unpredictable, it’s likely that 2009 H1N1 viruses and regular seasonal viruses will cause illness in the U.S. this flu season. The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against three different flu viruses: an H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season."

The Barton County Health Department has been offering this year’s vaccine since Sept. 20, health educator Janel Rose said. No shortage of vaccine is anticipated.

Ellinwood District Hospital will have a special flu shot clinic this Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon, at the EDH Education Room. Great Bend Regional Hospital will offer regular seasonal flu shots for the public from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 20. Clara Barton Hospital in Hoisington plans to administer flu vaccines in the ER 24/7 and at their Lab Fair on Oct. 23. Central Kansas Medical Center in Great Bend will be having its special drive-by clinic on Saturday, Oct. 16, at the Great Bend Public Library parking lot.

New this year, and available at the health department, is a high-dose influenza vaccine shot, available for anyone 65 years of age and older who is eligible to receive a regular seasonal flu vaccine. It has four times the amount of antigen that causes a person to produce antibodies against influenza, Rose said. "As a person ages, their immune response is usually not as strong as it is in a younger person." People who opt for the high-dose shot may experience more of the side effects that can be typical with regular doses: pain at the injection site, achiness and a little bit of a temperature. These are short-term, Rose added.

Many people confuse influenza with the stomach flu, Rose said. Actually, "influenza is a serious respiratory disease caused by a virus spread from infected persons."

If past trends are an indication, flu shots are highly recommended this year. An August CDC report summarized the death rates due to influenza for 22 past seasons, and found that when influenza strain A(H3N2) is prominent in the flu season, the death rate is 2.7 times higher than for the seasons when it is not.

This year’s vaccine protects against three strains, including H3N2, Rose noted, adding, "H3N2, which is an A strain, were some of the earlier actual cases ID’ed this year in the United States."