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Posted: December 23, 2009 12:30 a.m.

Don’t forget your seasonal flu shots

H1N1 shot only protects against that particular strain

Brittany Thomas/

Preventative measures: Debra Head, LPN with the Newton County Health Department, administers a flu shot to a patient. The seasonal flu shot is recommended for everyone.

With all the hype surrounding H1N1 this year, many people are forgetting that the seasonal flu shot is available as well, and protects against three different strains of influenza.

On average, 226,000 people are hospitalized every year for influenza and 36,000 people — mostly elderly — will die from the flu. At the Newton County Health Department, a flu shot that can prevent the disease is just $20 and there are still plenty available. They also the mist vaccine available for children as well. Those who have Medicaid, Medicare, Signa and United Healthcare can have their insurance billed for the cost.

Everyone is encouraged to get a flu shot and the health department will give them to children as young as 6 months. The shot should last for a full year and protect against seasonal flu, though it does take roughly two weeks for the protection to develop after the shot is given.

"Influenza viruses are always changing," according to a press release from the health department. "Because of this, influenza vaccines are updated every year, and an annual vaccination is recommended. Each year scientists try to match the viruses in the vaccine to those most likely to cause flu that year. When there is a close match the vaccine protects most people from serious influenza-related illness. But even when there is not a close match, the vaccine provides some protection."

The release does caution that the flu shot will not protect against "influenza-like" illnesses caused by other viruses. The flu can cause fever, cough, sore throat, chills, fatigue, headache and muscle aches. In infants and the elderly, as well as those who are immunosuppressed, the flu can also cause a high fever and pneumonia, as well as aggravate existing medical conditions. It can also cause diarrhea and seizures in children.

Since mid-August when the shot became available, nearly 8,000 visitors to the health department have been vaccinated for the seasonal flu. Those interested are urged to get the vaccine as soon as possible and the health department does not require an appointment for a flu shot.

For more information, contact the Newton County Health Department at (770) 786-9086 or visit them at 8203 Hazelbrand Road, behind the Newton County Public Library.

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