October marks the official start of the flu season and, for the sixth straight year, The Carolinas Center for Medical Excellence (CCME), is providing a list of flu clinics on its website that have vaccinations available across North Carolina. To find a clinic nearest you, visit www.thecarolinascenter.org/fcf.
Last flu season, more than 3,500 flu clinics were listed on the Flu Clinic Finder, attracting nearly 35,000 web hits. This season CCME expects just as many or more listed this year to provide the public with an abundance of choices when you are ready to get your flu shot.
In a typical year, more than 2,000 North Carolinians 65 and older will die from complications of the flu and pneumonia. Patients who get the flu are more prone to getting pneumonia ? one of the leading causes of death for older adults. In general, Tarheel seniors take good care of themselves; last year, 60 percent of North Carolina seniors reported getting flu shots. Medicare pays for both flu and pneumonia shots. While everyone is susceptible to catching the flu, those most in need of a flu vaccine are the elderly, babies and toddlers ages 6-59 months, people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and heart or lung disease, pregnant women, and health care workers. In an average year, flu kills 36,000 people and hospitalizes another 200,000, mostly the elderly.
With flu season just around the corner, now is a good time to separate fact from fiction on the flu. Here are common myths that unfortunately keep some people from getting their flu shot:
Myth 1: The flu is dangerous only to the elderly. While the flu is especially dangerous to older adults, it is even more dangerous to those who have diabetes, chronic illness, or a weak immune system. You're also at higher risk if you live in a nursing home.
Myth 2: The flu shot can cause the flu. Not true! The flu shot is made from a killed virus, so it is impossible for the shot to give you the flu. The flu shot is your best weapon against the flu.
Myth 3: You don't need a flu shot every year. You do need to get a flu shot every year because the flu virus changes from year to year.
Myth 4: After November, it's too late to get the flu shot. While it's true that the best time to get the shot is between mid-October and mid-November, the flu virus can be spread as late as March.
Myth 5: Flu and pneumonia shots are the same. The pneumonia shot is a different shot; it can be given any time during the year. Talk to your doctor about what's best for you.
Myth 6: As long as I don't eat or drink after someone who has the flu, I won't get it.
The flu is very contagious. In fact, if someone who has the virus coughs or sneezes near you, the virus can be spread to you through the air you breathe.
CCME sets up a Flu Vaccine Exchange
Shortages of flu vaccine in previous years have meant that some people were not able to get their flu shot. "In hopes of tightening the network of flu clinic providers and to prevent any unnecessary shortages or wasted vaccine doses this flu season, we have enhanced our novel Vaccine Exchange email system, which will allow providers who need vaccine or have leftover vaccine to alert other flu clinic providers when they have excess vaccine available," said Anne Butzen, CCME Improvement Consultant and Flu Clinic Finder Coordinator. Two hundred providers are already enrolled in our Vaccine Exchange, which is available to health care providers on the Flu Clinic Finder Web page.