Frequent handwashing and avoiding close contact with those who are sick can help but, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the best way to prevent the flu is getting a flu vaccine each year.
As a service to the community, Atlantic General Hospital/Health System is again providing community flu vaccinations at annual clinics for people 13 or older. (They will not be offering the high-dose flu vaccine. Those who desire the high-dose flu vaccination should contact their primary-care provider or the RediScripts pharmacy located in the main lobby at Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin, Md.) The flu vaccine is considered preventative care and is covered at 100 percent by most insurance.
Patients of AGHS providers can call to schedule their flu shots or inquire about available walk-in times. Community members can also receive flu shots at Townsend Medical Center on 10th Street in Ocean City, Md., with no appointment necessary.
Donations made during the Atlantic General Hospital flu clinics help offset the cost of future flu clinics.
This year, the hospital and health system has scheduled clinics on:
• Tuesday, Oct. 2, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., Pocomoke Fire Department, 1410 Market Street, Pocomoke, Md.
• Saturday, Oct. 6, 8 a.m. to noon, Health Fair at Ocean Pines Community Center, 235 Ocean Parkway, Ocean Pines, Md.
• Tuesday, Oct. 9, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Taylor Bank (Snow Hill branch), 108 West Market St., Snow Hill, Md.
• Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2 to 6 p.m., Atlantic General Hospital (use Emergency Room entrance), 9733 Healthway Dr., Berlin, Md.
• Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2 to 6 p.m., Atlantic General Hospital (use Emergency Room entrance), 9733 Healthway Dr., Berlin, Md.
• Thursday, Oct. 18, 3 to 6 p.m., Atlantic General Primary Care, 96 Atlantic Ave., Ocean View.
• Wednesday, Oct. 24, 1 to 4 p.m., Atlantic General Women’s Health, 38394 Dupont Blvd., Unit H, Selbyville.
• Thursday, Oct. 25, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Holy Savior Catholic Church, 1705 Philadelphia Avenue, Ocean City, Md.
Influenza and complications resulting from the virus kill an estimated 20,000 people each year, according to the CDC. Although rates of influenza vaccinations have increased in recent years, health surveys indicate that less than half of the high-risk population receives a yearly vaccine.
Influenza, or flu, is a highly contagious virus spread by inhaling droplets from an infected individual’s cough or sneeze. Most symptoms emerge within 24 to 48 hours and are characterized by fever, chills, sore throat, cough and headache. An infected person can unknowingly pass on the flu to family members and loved ones, because the virus can be transmitted 24 hours before symptoms appear. The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months or older get a seasonal flu vaccine.
Those at an increased risk for influenza related complications include: people 65 or older; nursing home residents and those at other chronic-care facilities; adults and children with chronic disorders of the pulmonary or cardiovascular systems, including children with asthma; people with metabolic diseases, such as diabetes; and those with blood diseases, such as sickle cell anemia, or impaired immunity.
The vaccine is usually given before the flu season. Since flu viruses mutate often, vaccines should be repeated each year.
For more information on the Atlantic General Hospital Community flu clinics, contact Atlantic General Hospital at (410) 641-9FLU (9358).