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NNY residents encouraged to get flu shot

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Flu shots — it doesn’t matter where you get them; just get the vaccine to become protected from influenza.

That is the message from county public health professionals, who hope to spread awareness among Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties residents of the need for immunization so a major flu outbreak doesn’t occur as it did a year ago.

“It’s very unpredictable; we don’t know what we’ll see from year to year,” said Marcia M. Ashline, Lewis County supervising public health nurse.

How slowly — or quickly — the virus may spread depends on the flu strains that circulate, the number of Northern New York residents who get vaccinated and the use of common prevention methods, such as covering the mouth when sneezing and frequent hand washing. So far in this influenza season, which began recently in the north country, there have been no confirmed laboratory cases in Jefferson, Lewis or St. Lawrence counties.

That is a different picture from last year around this time, when the peak of flu season occurred. There were well over 1,000 cases last season, most of which occurred in the fall. The typical flu season peak in the north country doesn’t occur until February.

Residents, health officials said, should be vaccinated now to protect themselves sooner, as it takes about two weeks for a person to obtain immunity.

“We hope no one gets the flu; that’d be a wonderful year,” said Faith E. Lustik, Jefferson County health planner. “The community has a lot of available flu vaccine.”

Not only are flu vaccines available at drugstores and pharmacies within grocery chains, but they are available through physician offices and at the three local public health agencies.

There were 650 adult doses, 210 children’s doses and 20 flu mist vaccines ordered for Jefferson County Public Health Service. Agency staff and county government officials were vaccinated first, Ms. Lustik said, but plenty of doses are available for the public to purchase at an immunization clinic. The cost for an adult dose is $36.

Mrs. Ashline said Lewis County Public Health has ordered 700 adult doses, 50 children’s doses and 10 flu mist vaccines. An adult dose is $35.

Although there have been no confirmed cases in St. Lawrence County, interim Public Health Director Lorraine B. Kourofsky said there have been many respiratory cough cases. So far, she said, none has been related to influenza.

St. Lawrence County Public Health ordered 900 adult doses, which are available to the public for $30, 200 children’s doses and 70 flu mist vaccines.

All children’s doses are offered for free, through the federal Vaccines for Children program. “I just got my flu vaccine yesterday,” Ms. Kourofsky said Wednesday. “They do a good job.”

She encouraged people to stay home from work if they are sick, so the disease does not spread.

For more information, including a list of immunization clinics, call 386-2325 for St. Lawrence County Public Health, 786-3770 for Jefferson County Public Health, or 376-5453 for Lewis County Public Health.

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