GALLIA COUNTY — Influenza is elevated in Gallia County this year, resulting in widespread activity.
According to Health Commissioner Dr. Gerald Valee, over 3,600 flu shots have been administered by the Gallia County Health Department this season as of Jan. 5.
“The health department has had a vaccination program that has gone on for decades, and so far this year as of January 5 we have given 3,650 flu shots,” said Valee. “That’s probably the most of any facility in the county and it’s over ten percent of the population.”
The vaccination program does more than give free flu shots to walk ins, they also assist the public in other ways.
“We will vaccinate you in the car, if you’re at home and bed ridden we can get you a flu shot at home,” said Valee.
The flu program also goes out to each township offering flu shots in their localities, making it easier for residents in rural parts of the county to get flu vaccinations. These opportunities are posted through the health department’s social media outlets, the Gallipolis Daily Tribune, and other means to notify residents.
“The goal is to not have any barriers in place, everyone who wants a vaccination to get it at their convenience,” said Melissa Conkle, director of nursing. “We have vaccination days in the schools, with parents consent, which is a big help for working families.”
Flu shots are engineered according to predictions about which strain of the flu will be prevalent in a given year. Some years, they are not always perfectly matched, but still offer protection.
“The government determines what strains of flue is put in the flu shots and the match is not always perfect. Even through we miss a specific strain, there is still enough protection to survive the flu,” said Valee. “It’s still a very valuable thing to do, the most important thing you can do is get your flu shot.”
Valee explained that the flu can be deadly, particularly to the elderly and the very young. Even though the vaccination can be an inexact match to the current strain, that added protection can keep the elderly alive if they contract the flu and have their vaccination.
“The flu is elevated throughout our whole region. The flu I’ve seen has all occurred with people who had their flu shots. That means they didn’t have a perfect match this year,” said Valee. “On the other hand, we had a similar situation last year and had no deaths from anyone I gave a flu shot to. So even though it doesnt’ give you a 100 percent protection, it gives you enough protection to service the flu.”
Conkle explained certain ways to help prevent the flu each year, the first of which is getting vaccinated.
“Hand washing is always a great way to help protect yourself from any virus. Any time you come into contact with a contact surface it’s good to wash your hands, especially before you eat or touch your eyes, nose, or mouth,” said Conkle. “All those healthy habits that you can do like eating well, getting plenty of sleep, and minimizing stress can all help protect you from getting the flu.”
Valee explained that there is a very effective medication to help combat the virus once ill.
“There is a very good treatment for the flu called Tamiflu, it’s about 98 percent effective, it works better if you start in the first 48 hours,” said Valee. “Our tests to determine the flu are imperfect, you could get a false negative or a false positive. We write prescriptions for Tamiflu, we have a nurse practitioner that would be more than glad to see someone with those symptoms.”
If someone is symptomatic of the flu, getting treatment is first step someone should, and staying home is the second.
“We really like to encourage folks to stay home if you are sick. It is best for the public and everyone around you to stay home when you are sick as well as keep their children home as well,” said Conkle.
The health department offers flu shot vaccinations anytime they are open on a walk in basis, and they are free to the public.
“You can still get a flu shot if you haven’t had one yet,” said Conkle.
Reach Morgan McKinniss at 740-446-2342.