Happy holidays and get a free flu shot!
Dec. 7, 2022
By Mary Wade Burnside
Maybe you’ve put the lights up on the house, done some holiday shopping and started planning a fantastic meal to share with extended family members.
But are you up to date on your flu and COVID shots?
Perhaps you don’t see the connection, but if you come down with aches and a fever on the eve of a large gathering, or worse, while you’re hugging and kissing friends and relatives to wish them a Happy New Year, you’ll get the picture.
So it makes complete sense to add vaccines to your to-do list.
This refrain from Monongalia County Health Department might sound familiar, along with the fact that the first week of December is devoted to not one but two health observances: getting a flu shot and handwashing.
But this year, it’s especially important. That’s because, unlike in the past two years, this holiday season, we’re facing not only COVID, but also an earlier and harder-hitting flu season as well as an outbreak of respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, mostly among children.
Last Thursday, MCHD’s own Ed Abbott, RN, an infection control/epidemiology nurse, discussed the situation with Dave Wilson on West Virginia Radio Corp.’s morning show, “Talk of the Town,” relaying that hospitals are overrun and also giving advice on when to stay home and treat illnesses, when to take a child or yourself to an urgent care or your health care provider and when to go to the emergency department.
“When there is dehydration and respiratory issues, that’s the time to go the hospital,” he said.
One way to tell with a baby is if diapers remain dry.
He also noted that while this is the season that people want to go in to work to make money for holiday shopping, it shouldn’t be facilitated by sending a sick child to day care.
“If you’re sick, stay home.”
MCHD also still has flu vaccines, and everyone ages 6 months and up should get one. What’s more, in an effort to get as many people vaccinated before the holidays, we’re now offering them for free, and you can make an appointment for one by calling 304-598-5119. If you have health insurance, insurance can be billed, but you won’t be charged.
While we like to advertise October or early November as “the sweet spot” so the inoculation is fully effective by Thanksgiving, we also like to say that it’s never too late to get a flu vaccine. If you hurry, you can still be in good shape by the end of December.
And even if you’ve had your first COVID series and even an older booster, now the recommendation is to get the new bivalent dose that has been formulated to attack the newer strains of the virus.
Of course, we also should go over other ways to stay safe as flu, RSV and COVID numbers climb. Handwashing is key year-round but especially this time of year.
It takes soap, water, friction and about 20 seconds of thorough scrubbing, including under the nails. Maybe pass the time by channeling your inner Mariah Carey with a verse from “All I Want for Christmas Is You” or Adam Sandler and “The Chanukah Song.”
It takes a little effort, but not as much if you actually get sick during what is supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year.
Mary Wade Burnside is the public information officer at Monongalia County Health Department.