By April Reese
University of Georgia
A shortage of flu vaccine in recent years caused some people to suffer through the flu season without getting a shot. But experts say there should be plenty to go around this year.
Anyone at risk of getting the flu should prepare now by getting a flu shot, said Connie Crawley, a food, nutrition and health specialist with the University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences.
"Primarily the elderly and those who have chronic diseases like diabetes or heart disease should get a flu shot," Crawley said.
And now for the first time, parents are being urged to get flu shots for their children over 2 years old. "They're most likely to bring it home from school to the rest of the family," she said.
Small children tend to be around grandparents, too. And children aren't particularly good at washing their hands or other things that slow the spread of the flu virus, she said.
Anyone who is allergic to eggs, Crawley said, shouldn't take flu shots. The way the flu vaccine is cultured, she said, makes it likely that anyone allergic to eggs would have a reaction to a flu shot.
Other than that, though, neither kids nor adults should have any ill effect from taking flu shots.
"Immunization experts say the vaccine contains dead flu virus, so you shouldn't feel sick after getting the shot," Crawley said. "Some people do report a sore arm where the shot is given for about two days after the injection."
Getting the shot now will protect you through the winter. Taking the vaccine almost guarantees you won't get the flu at all.
She said the shots are usually received in early fall but are often given until January. People are urged to take them in October and November, before the start of the flu season.
In the past few years, manufacturers had a hard time producing enough vaccine early enough to help those at risk.
"A new batch of vaccine has to be made each year, since the flu virus changes from year to year," Crawley said. "There are adequate supplies this year."
Don't confuse flu with West Nile
UGA entomologist Nancy Hinkle advises people to get a flu shot so they won't be confused about what they've contracted.
"Symptoms of West Nile Virus infection start out just like influenza, with headache, fever, muscle aches and lack of energy," Hinkle said.
"While both infections can be hazardous for the very young, the elderly and those weakened by pre-existing health conditions, rarely do otherwise healthy people need a doctor's attention when they develop flu."
Hinkle said many people, worried more about West Nile virus, may rush to the emergency room with the flu.
"It's important that emergency rooms not be swamped with flu patients," she said, "preventing high-risk patients from getting timely medical care."
Where to get the shot
Many health departments, pharmacies and health centers are offering shots.
"A Web site sponsored by the Georgia Medical Care Foundation tells where and when shots are offered and how much the fees are," Crawley said. "You can search for locations by county or zip code."
Information is available at www.immunizeadultga.org.