Doctors and medical professionals are urging people to get flu shots with the return of flu season.
“I always encourage it,” said William Lau, a pharmacist with the Ocean Heights Avenue Walgreens in Egg Harbor Township. Lau said he especially recommended it for senior citizens, those with diabetes or those with asthma or chronic lung diseases.
“You don’t want to get pneumonia and get sick and wind up in the hospital,” Lau said.
The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommend that everyone older than 6 months be vaccinated, as well as pregnant women and those who live with or care for others at risk of serious complications.
The CDC reported that there would be between 146 million and 149 million doses of flu vaccine available this year. The strains of flu that this year’s shot protects against include H1N1, the so-called swine flu strain that was the most common in the 2009-10 season.
Flu season starts in October and lasts until May, but it may peak early or late, said Pat Diamond, Atlantic County’s public health officer.
“The only thing predictable about the flu is that it’s unpredictable,” Diamond said.
She recommended that people get the shot even if they had one last year. She said that the specific viruses that circulate every year change and that the vaccine gives protection from the current year’s strains.
The CDC recommends people get shots as early in the season as possible because it can take two weeks for the body to develop the necessary antibodies in response.
Flu outbreaks typically hospitalize thousands of people every year, in recent years killing between a couple of dozen and a couple of hundred people. The New Jersey Department of Health estimated that a bad flu season could result in as many as 50,000 deaths in the state alone, in addition to 275,000 hospitalized and 2.5 million sickened.
During the most recent flu season, from September 2011 to May 2012, state officials reported 3,025 cases of the flu bad enough for the person to be hospitalized or otherwise seek treatment.
Local officials are offering flu shots this year for residents at either free or reduced prices.
Atlantic County offers eight more flu clinics between now and Nov. 8 at religious institutions and public buildings. Shots cost $15. The next clinic will be 10 a.m. to noon Tuesday at Brigantine Presbyterian Church, 1501 W. Brigantine Ave. There is no fee for Medicaid Part B recipients.
In Cape May County, officials will hold an array of free clinics for county residents, including a drive-through clinic at Kindle World Auto Plaza in Cape May Court House from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. next Sunday. The next clinic will be Wednesday at the Woodbine Elementary School, 801 Webster St.
Cumberland County will also offer free flu shots for its residents. The next one in the eastern part of the county will be 10:30 a.m. to noon Nov. 7 at the Holly City Senior Center, 1500 S. Second St., Millville.
The next clinic scheduled in southern Ocean County is from 10 a.m. to noon Wednesday at St. Pius Parish Center, 300 Lacey Road, Lacey Township. Flu shots are $20, or free to Medicaid Part B recipients.
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