Health officials urge public to get flu vaccination

Courtesy of Centers for Disease Control.

The Portage County Health Department is in full swing with administering flu vaccinations throughout the community.

October through May is considered flu season, which is when it’s recommended for the public to get their flu vaccinations. The vaccine is created to last inside the body until May when the risk of getting the flu is decreased.

The Portage County Health Department will provide multiple flu vaccines that contain two influenza A viruses — H1N1/H3N2— and two influenza B viruses to provide additional protection.

What is the flu?

Flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory disease that can be viral. It is spread mainly by coughing, sneezing and close contact.

“As people sneeze, it goes out. People in the wintertime are closed in,” said Rosemary Ferraro, Director of Nurses at the Portage County Department. “They [People] are not outside like the summer time, so they [people] are getting all of these germs, school is starting back up, the kids are in recess and that’s how you know everybody catches it.”

Flu symptoms


–Sore throat

–Muscle Aches




–Runny or stuffy nose

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The flu vaccine is meant to protect so that if one does get the flu, it won’t be as severe. Not all flu vaccines can cover all strains, but it can greatly decrease the likelihood of becoming ill, Ferraro said.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a new flu vaccine is created yearly to protect against three to four viruses that are likely to cause disease in the upcoming flu season.

Last year’s flu vaccine appeared to be ineffective compared to previous years.

“The problem with last year’s flu vaccine and why it wasn’t so effective was that the virus that was spreading the most among people was a virus that wasn’t covered with by the vaccine,” said medical director Mary DiOrio of the Ohio Department of Health.

The flu vaccines are selected the year previous to anticipate the upcoming flu season by looking at parts of the southern hemisphere and what strains are common, DiOrio said as they have opposite flu season to the north.

“What happened last year is the manufacturers started making the flu vaccine to cover the strains they thought would be circulating, and the virus that did circulate was different,” DiOrio said. “So far this year we don’t look like we are going to have that problem. It looks like it’ll be a really good match.”

Flu misconceptions

“The number one reason we hear [for people not getting vaccinated] is, ‘The flu shot gave me the flu,’ ” Ferraro said. “Our answer is that it can’t give you the flu.”

The most commonly given flu vaccination is a shot in which the vaccine is inactivated, DiOrio said. With the nasal mist, there is a live attenuated virus  or LAIV in it but it can’t cause the full blow virus, as it’s been altered. Common side effects from the nasal mist may include a runny nose or sore throat, however.

Flu vaccine can:

Keep you from getting flu

Make flu less severe if you do get it

Keep you from spreading flu to family and others

Aside from the common misconception of coming down with illness from the shot, DiOrio said there is still misinformation of the flu being a mild illness.

“Every year we have individuals who become severely ill with flu and are hospitalized,” Di Orio said. “Last year we had thousands of individuals in Ohio hospitalized due to influenza, and tragically every year we get a case or two of children who die from influenza.

The Ohio Department of Health states that an estimated 200,000 people in the U.S. are hospitalized with the flu each year, resulting in an estimated 20,000 flu-related deaths.

“People die every year from flu. It’s unnecessary.” Ferraro said. “Last year we had six kids’ deaths in Ohio. That’s a lot of children we can protect.”

Where to get your vaccination

As of Oct. 29, more than 700 doses of the flu vaccine have been given out in Portage County.

“We are out in the community the whole month of October and half of the month in November doing flu shots everywhere,” Ferraro said. “There is no reason to say, ‘I can’t get it because there is no clinic around me.’ We’re there all the time.”

The Ohio Department of Health said they encourage everyone to get vaccinated even after the flu season starts.

“Right now that we think there is plenty of flu vaccine out there, so if an individual hasn’t gotten vaccinated there should be a lot of opportunities for them to find vaccines close to them — pharmacies, doctors offices and local health departments should all have vaccines,” DiOrio said.

Find you flu vaccine clinic here.

Kimberleigh Anderson and Melissa Puppo are city reporters for The Kent Stater.