Price County Public Health and the Price County Sheriff's Office are teaming up in special events poised to "Fight the Bugs and Take Back the Drugs" across local communities before flu activity begins to swell for the 2019-2020 season.

Community members stopping by those events will be able to get their annual flu shot and find a safe disposal option for any unused, unwanted or expired medications and sharps containers they have in their possession.

Items that can be dropped off as part of efforts aimed at curbing misuse of pharmaceutical products include both controlled and uncontrolled substances, over-the-counter and pet medications as well as ointments, patches, creams, non-aerosol sprays, and vials.

Both the four-strain vaccine and the high-dose shot designed to boost the immune response in senior populations will be available at the events.

Those not able to make it to one of the scheduled walk-in clinics can call 715-339-3054 to set up an appointment with Public Health or get the shot at the office of their healthcare provider. Some pharmacies around the area also offer the vaccine, according to info shared by Price County Public Health Nurse Chelsea Onchuck, RN, BSN.

A full list of community flu shot clinic dates is included at the end of this story.

While monitored activity of flu-like illness was still minimal across the U.S. as of mid-October, flu cases usually begin to rise at some point in October and November, making the preventative health stops especially timely, according to Onchuck.

"The annual flu vaccine is the best way to protect against influenza and its potentially serious complications," Onchuck said.

According to the CDC's most recent estimates, between 531,000 and 647,000 individuals were hospitalized for flu-related complications and up to 61,200 died as a result of the flu across the U.S. from Oct. 1, 2018 to May 4, 2019. Estimates of last season's preliminary cumulative burden when it comes to flu-related impacts are set to be released later this fall, according to Onchuck.

Health experts recommend that everyone ages six months and older get the flu shot. Certain factors can make receiving the vaccine even more crucial; those age 65 and older, pregnant individuals, young children, children with neurological conditions and anyone who suffers from asthma, heart disease or stroke-related symptoms, diabetes, HIV/AIDS, or cancer all fall into the group most likely to experience severe complications from influenza, though no one is immune from its worst possible effects, according to Onchuck.

Even if someone's not all that worried about the flu's impact on their own health, Onchuck emphasizes the larger good that comes with more widespread vaccination.

"While getting the flu shot does protect the individual — it also helps protect grandma who just had a stroke or a newborn who is too young for the flu shot. Getting your annual flu vaccination will protect the whole community," Onchuck stated.

Preliminary estimates place the effectiveness of the flu vaccine for the 2018-2019 season at 29%. As Onchuck explained, today's flu vaccine tends to better combat influenza B and influenza A (H1N1) viruses and be less effective in staving off influenza A (H3N2) strains of the virus, which dominated in reporting data late in the last flu season.

If someone does come down with the flu despite getting vaccinated, they're less likely to suffer severe complications from the illness, according to info from the CDC.

Onchuck debunked three widespread myths surrounding the flu shot, including the false idea that the vaccine can actually cause influenza.

"Flu vaccines cannot cause flu," she stressed, adding that the vaccines are made with either killed or weakened viruses.

The second myth she addressed was the oft circulating claim that the shot is downright dangerous to receive.

"Flu vaccines are safe. Serious problems from a flu vaccine are very rare," Onchuck stated, adding that the most common side effect someone is likely to see is soreness at the injection site, typically mild and resolved within a day or two.

The final myth relates to safety of the shot during pregnancy. Despite all the fear stoked on internet comment sections, the CDC’s Vaccine Safety Datalink (VSD) project, representing one of the largest and strongest studies to examine any potential link between the flu shot and miscarriage, found no increased risk of pregnancy loss in those who received the vaccine while expecting during a study period ranging from the 2012-2013 to 2014-2015 flu seasons, as explained by Onchuck.

She noted that the majority of healthy adults may be capable of infecting others starting one day before symptoms set in and up until five to seven days after they begin to feel ill. The virus can potentially be spread by infected children even longer, according to Onchuck. It's even possible to be infected with influenza and show no symptoms but still be capable of spreading the virus around to others, Onchuck stated, explaining that influenza viruses are mainly spread through droplets formed when people cough, sneeze or talk.

In addition to getting their annual flu shot, people can help themselves and others in their community stay healthy by avoiding unnecessary close contact, staying home when they are sick, covering their mouths and noses when coughing and sneezing, frequently washing or sanitizing their hands, not touching their eyes, nose or mouth, and practicing good overall health habits, such as getting enough sleep and disinfecting surfaces around the house, particularly if a family member is ill, according to info shared by Onchuck and the CDC.

For more information on flu prevention, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent.

(Copyright © 2019 APG Media)

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