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Health Department chief urges everyone to get flu shot

By Megan Workman

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department's flu vaccination campaign had a slow start Monday, which was a typical turnout for early in the season, the agency's chief health officer said.

Dr. Rahul Gupta said he didn't know the exact number of people who got a flu shot Monday but it was "not a whole lot," he said.

The campaign's slow kickoff is common each year because most people don't think about getting vaccinated until it starts to get cold, he said.

"I think people feel like, when it starts to get colder, they start to worry about the flu and likely so," Gupta said. "As the season goes on, it gets colder and we start to see an interest in the vaccination. We're saying this is a perfect time to avoid the rush and get vaccinated early to protect yourself."

The 2012 to 2013 campaign, "Take 3 Actions to Fight the Flu," will continue into the beginning of next year. Every weekday from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., residents can get a vaccination on a walk-in basis at the department offices at 108 Lee St. E. in Charleston. Patients' insurance can be billed. The private-pay cost is $36.

Health officials will give out the same flu vaccine as last year, which includes protection against H1N1 and H3N2, as well as the seasonal flu. Although the vaccine is the same as the previous year's, Gupta encourages everyone to get the shot again.

The vaccine is effective for one year -- and recommended by the Centers for Disease and Prevention -- for people who are older than 6 months and can take up to four weeks to become activated in the body.

"Immunity of the vaccine wanes off and we get different strains of the vaccine. It's always important to update your shots annually and not depend on the one you got last year," Gupta said. "It takes several weeks for the body to react so getting it ahead of time is always a better idea than to wait until the middle of the season."

For the third year in a row, health officials will visit 100 area schools to distribute the flu vaccination. Gupta said that it is crucial for children to get the flu shot.

Health officials will also visit a number of businesses that host workplace vaccine clinics as well as long-term care facilities, Gupta said.

"The importance is to be able to vaccinate a number of people in one setting in their comfort zone so they don't have to go out and wait on us to get the flu shot," Gupta said. "It saves people from having to take off work and also having to wait with other people who might be sick [at the health department]."

Registration forms are available at kchdwv.org. For more information call the KCHD Flu Hotline at 304-348-6882.

Reach Megan Workman at megan.workman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5113.


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