The Times West Virginian

January 11, 2014

Flu cases reported; immunizations can still help

By Jessica Borders
Times West Virginian

FAIRMONT — Marion County has recently been having reports of the flu.

The Marion County Health Department has seen positive cases of the flu as well as a lot of influenza-like illness, said Donna Riffle, director of nursing.

Last week, according to information reported by providers, the county had 31 diagnosed cases of the flu, she said. Of those cases, almost all were influenza type A, and many were H1N1, which is a strain of influenza type A.

Marion County also had 107 reports of influenza-like illness.

Riffle explained that the definition of influenza-like illness is when someone has a fever of 100 degrees or higher along with a cough or sore throat, but no other symptoms. It’s up to the physician to test whether the patient has the flu.

Some symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, chills, headaches, and just feeling bad and general malaise.

The flu season typically lasts from October through March. Riffle stressed the importance of people getting immunized if they haven’t already.

“It is not too late to get the flu vaccine,” she said.

Once people have received the vaccine, it takes up to two weeks to develop complete immunity and protection, Riffle said.

She said the vaccines available at the health department are quadrivalent, which means they protect people from four strains of the flu — two influenza A viruses and two influenza B viruses. This includes the H1N1 strain.

The Marion County Health Department, located at 300 Second St. in Fairmont, holds an immunization clinic every Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. No appointments are accepted, as these services are for walk-ins only.

There is typically no charge for the flu vaccine for people 18 and younger. For those 19 and older, the immunization costs $25. The Marion County Health Department, which is a nonprofit, can bill Medicare as well as PEIA, Blue Cross Blue Shield and The Health Plan insurances.

For people ages 2 to 49, the vaccine is also available in a mist form that is sprayed into the nose.

The flu shot is recommended for everyone, but especially for children, people over 65, pregnant women, and those with chronic diseases. Persons with egg allergies or who have had allergic reactions related to the flu vaccine in the past should not get the immunization. In addition, the vaccine should not be given to individuals who have had Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

While the flu vaccine can have some side effects, it is a myth that the vaccine can give a person the flu.

Every individual who gets any type of vaccine at the health department receives a Vaccine Information Statement explaining the type of vaccine, who should and shouldn’t get it, any possible side effects, and other information. For more information about the flu, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website at www.cdc.gov.

Riffle said people continue to stop by the Marion County Health Department to get the flu vaccine and call for more information. Persons can still get the immunization if they have a cold that is not severe.

“If you’re mildly ill, you can get the flu vaccine,” she said. “But if someone has a temperature, I would rather they wait.”

In addition to receiving the vaccine, individuals should use good hand-washing practices and cough etiquette to help prevent getting the flu or making others ill, Riffle said.

“If you’re sick, stay home,” she said. “That’s really important.”

Email Jessica Borders at jborders@timeswv.com or follow her on Twitter @JBordersTWV.