SALISBURY — Influenza sends more than 200,000 people to the hospital every year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But simple, preventative steps can help lower the risk of catching the virus, which can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people.
The first step is getting vaccinated annually. It’s especially important for people at high risk of complications. That includes people with medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease; pregnant women; children; people 65 years and older; and those who live with or care for others who are high risk of developing serious complications.
But, says Karen Mihalik, RN, an Infection Preventionist at Peninsula Regional Medical Center, “It’s important for everyone to get vaccinated starting at age 6 months and every year thereafter, because the flu can strike anyone and is easy to transmit.”
Getting an annual vaccination can protect people against many flu strains and even lessen the symptoms of strains not contained in the vaccine.
Because flu season can start as early as October, Peninsula Regional Medical Center will hold its annual Drive-Thru Flu Clinic event on Thursday, Oct. 4, and Friday, Oct. 5, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. It will be held at the Arthur W. Perdue (Shorebirds) Stadium on the corner of Route 50 and Hobbs Road in Salisbury. The cost is a $10 donation.
As the name implies, participants just drive up, sign a form, hand over their cash donation and get their shot — all without leaving their vehicle. It’s quick and easy.
Peninsula Regional uses only single-dose syringes, which do not have thimerosal, a mercury-containing preservative that can be a concern for some people when it comes to getting vaccines.
“There is no mercury in our flu formulation for the Drive-Thru Flu Clinic, which is Fluarix from Glaxo-SmithKline,” said Peninsula Regional Medical Center Pharmacy Director Dennis Killian.
There are other easy steps that help prevent flu transmission as well, the CDC says, including washing hands frequently and thoroughly (or use an alcohol-based handwash gel); avoid close contact with sick people; stay home when you are sick, and keep children home from school or daycare
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, germs’ favorite pathways; cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze — preferably in the crook of your elbow or using a tissue, not your hand; and practice other good health habits to keep your immune system strong.