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SWGA replenished with seasonal flu vaccine

ALBANY -- Amid the focus on H1N1 flu, there is another type of influenza that has the potential to threaten the Southwest Georgia population -- seasonal flu.

Luckily, residents have been given additional protection. All 14 health departments in the Southwest Public Health District were restocked with the seasonal flu vaccine earlier this week.

Regular seasonal flu vaccine was offered earlier than usual this year and ran out quickly. In the meantime, officials have been waiting for more to be produced and shipped. Delivery was delayed because vaccine manufacturers had switched from producing seasonal flu vaccine to producing the vaccine for H1N1.

"Under normal circumstances, we would have received all of the vaccine by October," said Southwest Public Health District Director Dr. Jacqueline Grant.

More than 4,000 doses of the inoculation came in, which was the

remainder of a pre-ordered supply. The Southwest Public Health District also received around 16,000 doses of the H1N1 vaccine earlier in the week, so county health departments have both seasonal flu and H1N1 shots available. The health district has tentative plans to offer extended-hour clinics Thursday.

"We need to see what the demand is for the H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccine," said Grant. "If we did have extended-hour clinics, we would offer both (H1N1 and seasonal flu vaccine)."

A seasonal flu shot offers no protection against swine flu (H1N1) infection, but it will help prevent co-infections. Seasonal flu typically causes around 36,000 deaths and around 200,000 hospitalizations in the United States annually.

Anyone who wants to reduce the chances of catching the seasonal flu can get vaccinated. Certain parts of the population face greater risk of developing serious complications from it and public health experts recommend they be vaccinated. They include children ages 6 months to 19 years; pregnant women; people 50 and older; people of any age with chronic medical conditions, such as asthma or heart disease; people who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and people who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including health care workers, household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu, household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age.

"The elderly are a priority for the seasonal flu vaccine, and some of them have had to wait," Grant said.

For now, only individuals in five target populations are being vaccinated against H1N1. However, the health district anticipates that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the state will open up the vaccine to more population groups soon.

Those who should talk to their doctor before getting a flu shot include anyone who has had a severe allergic reaction to eggs or a previous flu shot, a history of Guillain-Barre Syndrome or is running a fever.

Influenza usually starts suddenly and may include fever, cough, sore throat, headache, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose and body aches.

Diarrhea and vomiting may also occur and are usually more common in children.

The seasonal flu vaccine is available at a reduced price of $20 per dose. Officials suggest those seeking the H1N1 or seasonal flu inoculation to call to ensure availability.

"We should have enough of the vaccine, but it is a nice idea to call," Grant said.

For more information about flu shots, residents may contact their local county health department or go online to www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org.