Across the country, shipments of this season’s influenza (flu) vaccine are arriving at healthcare facilities. Though COVID-19 continues, there is currently no available COVID-19 vaccine. While the seasonal flu shot won’t provide protection from COVID-19 infection, it will reduce the likelihood of a double infection of the flu and COVID-19.
Thankfully, the preventative actions we’re all taking now, by wearing a mask, social distancing, staying home when you’re sick, and avoiding large gatherings, are also helpful in avoiding the seasonal flu.
The best way to avoid getting the flu, however, is to get the annual flu shot. The annual flu shot may help you to lessen the severity of the flu if you do contract the virus, keeping you out of the ER and recovering quicker than without the vaccine’s protection.
“The flu shot can prevent an infection that can lead to hospitalization or even death. Having influenza on its own can be deadly; having COVID-19 on its own can also be deadly. Why not protect yourself when you can?” said Jacquelyn Free, FNP-C, Richland County Health Officer and healthcare provider at the MonDak Clinic in Fairview.
Each flu season, which runs from October through March, flu cases, deaths and trends are tracked and reported by public health.
During the 2019–20 influenza season, Richland County saw 137 flu cases, with seven hospitalizations and one death. The highest rates of infection were in the populations from age 0 to 18 years old, and from 25 to 65 years old. Of all cases, only 28 out of the 137 cases had received the flu shot.
If you are feeling sick and are diagnosed with the flu, your medical provider will recommend that you stay home from school, work and activities for between five and seven days. You’ll need that time to rest and recover, and staying home will avoid spreading the infection to others.
Drive-Through ClinicThe Richland County Health Department will be holding the annual mass flu shot clinic as a drive-through at the Richland County Fire Hall in Sidney on September 24, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The Drive-Through Clinic will serve adults only, and offers both regular and high-dose flu shots. No other shots will be given during the clinic. No appointment is needed.
Flu shots cannot be given to those who have animals in their vehicles. Children may be in the vehicle, but may not receive flu shots. Follow traffic signs to enter the Fire Hall from the north side.
• DO NOT attend the clinic if you are not feeling well.
• DO NOT attend if you are waiting for test results from a COVID-19 test.
• DO NOT attend if you have COVID-19 or have been exposed to COVID-19 in the past 14 days.
Flu shots, as well as other vaccines, for children and families will be available during regular clinic hours, on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. by appointment. Additional clinic hours are the second Wednesday until 6 p.m., and the third Thursday of the month, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. by appointment.
Check the Department Facebook page at www.facebook.com/RichlandCountyHealthDepartment for changes to regular clinic hours.
For further information or to inquire about group billing, contact the Richland County Health Department at 406-433-2207.
Stephanie Ler, RS, MPH, is Environmental Health Director of the Richland County Health Department