Still time to protect against flu says Pinal County public health

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FLORENCE – Arizona continues to see an increase in flu activity.  As of the final week in 2012, the state had 790 cases for the season and 190 of those were new cases confirmed through laboratory testing.  Pinal and 13 other counties were reporting increased flu activity.

Flu shots through the Pinal County Public Health are just $15, a bargain compared to the cost of cold and flumedicines or trips to the doctor’s office and missed work.  Flu shots are easier to find than ever before with major drug stores and grocery stores offering the shots.  Some of these locations are able to submit claims for insurance reimbursement.

“People often focus on the physical toll that influenza takes on them and their families – usually feeling crummy for a week or so,” said Public Health Director Tom Schryer.  “What they fail to consider is the economic toll it takes in terms of missed work hours, lost productivity, the cost of treatment and hours spent waiting for care.  But flu also presents the risk of death for those with weakened immune systems, the elderly or people with heart or lung problems.”

Infection from the influenza virus can trigger an array of symptoms, including:  fever or chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle and body aches, headaches, fatigue and, in some people, vomiting and diarrhea.

“While the flu shot is not 100% effective all the time, it is the best defense against the influenza virus,” Schryer said.  “If you suspect you have influenza, you should limit your exposure to others and seek medical treatment if you develop difficulty breathing, chest pain, frequent vomiting, or experience persistent cough or fever lasting more than three days.”

“Employees who try to brush off their symptoms and tough it out at work can actually make things worse for the office as a whole,” Pinal County Public Health Epidemiologist Graham Briggs explains.  “Instead of one or two people missing work for a few days, the whole office gets sick adding up to a lot more absenteeism.”

Briggs encourages employers to allow workers, whenever possible, to stay home until they are free of a fever for 24 hours.  Frequent hand washing, use of sanitizing gel and covering your cough can help prevent the spread of the virus if you do become sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks the spread of flu on its website.  Most states are showing widespread flu activity.  http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/usmap.htm

To schedule an appointment for your flu shot or for more information on influenza and vaccinations, please call the Pinal County Citizen Contact Center 1-888-431-1311.  For a complete list of clinic locations with addresses, click on http://goo.gl/aT0YO.

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