Flu Vaccination Best Shot at Staying Healthy

The flu can be much more than an nuisance that lays you up for a few days. Each year, the Centers for Disease Control says it puts more than 200,000 Americans in the hospital and causes more than 36,000 deaths in our country.

Dr. Sri Donepudi of Topeka's Cotton-O'Neil Clinic says getting a flu vaccination can offer 70- to 90-percent protection against the strains it includes.

That's where she admits it is a bit of a gamble. Scientists predict which three of an infinite number of constantly mutating influenza strains will be most prevalent, and include those in the vaccine. Last year, a different strain took hold. Still, Dr. Donepudi says that's not an argument against getting vaccinated. She says even if one strain is off, you still get protection from the other two. Plus, she says, in most years the predictions are a good match.

Dr. Donepudi says it's especially important for young children, the elderly or people with chronic illnesses to get vaccinated since they're less able to fight off flu viruses. She says, for them, the flu often leads to hospitalization or pneumonia. Plus, while a person is laid up with the flu, they may also be at risk for complications such as blood clots since they're not up moving around.

Health officials take the spread of flu so seriously, this year they've expanded their recommendations for children, going from ages six months to five years, all the way up to age 18.

Dr. Donepudi says it's because that age population is in schools, in close proximity. That makes them more likely to get it from one another, then bring it home and spread it to their families.

The flu mist nasal vaccine is another option for healthy people from two to 49-years old. Dr. Donepudi says it's important it is given only to that younger, healthy population because it does contain some live virus, as opposed to the killed virus in the shot.

For a complete list of who is included in high-risk groups and for restrictions on who should not get a flu vaccination, visit the Centers for Disease Control web site, www.cdc.gov/flu.

Flu Shot Clinics
Cotton-O'Neil Clinic (for Cotton-O'Neil patients)
Drive-thru Clinics
Tuesday, Oct. 21 thru Thursday, Nov. 6
(Tuesdays thru Thursdays only)
Stormont-Vail Surgical Suites parking garage
Enter off Garfield, between 9th and 10th

Walk-in Clinic
Tuesday, Nov.4 thru Thursday, Nov. 20
(Tuesdays thru Thursdays only)
Cotton-O'Neil Heart Center
929 SW Mulvane, 2nd floor

Shawnee County Health Agency
(for established patients of the agency's Community Health Center)
1 to 4 pm
October 15, October 29 and November 12
Must call (785) 368-2000, extension 5315 to schedule an appointment
Cost: $25
*The Health Agency is also holding flu shot clinics for children in Shawnee County public schools