While all the talk in the media seems to be about Ebola (including work on a vaccine), here in the U.S. people are at much greater risk of harm from a virus for which we already have a vaccine – the flu.
As the annual flu season begins, the L.A. County department of public health announced that influenza vaccinations are now available at no cost to residents at public health centers and more than 100 community vaccination events throughout L.A. County. Other places to get the flu vaccine include your regular healthcare provider, community clinics, and pharmacies. Health experts recommend that everyone ages 6 months and older get vaccinated against the flu every year.
“The flu virus is much more common and easily spread than Ebola,” says Jeffrey Gunzenhauser, MD, MPH, interim health officer for Los Angeles County. “The flu and Ebola also share many symptoms, such as fever, headache and body aches. People who are vaccinated now can be protected before the flu starts to spread, avoid undue concerns about Ebola in the event they catch the flu, and stay protected throughout the flu season.”
Impact of Influenza
The flu accounts for about 24,000 deaths each year in the U.S., though each season can be different. There have been as many as 49,000 deaths and about 200,000 hospitalizations from flu in a single year. In L.A. County, influenza caused 101 deaths during the 2013-2014 flu season. Influenza symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. While most individuals with influenza are able to treat themselves at home, influenza can lead to complications, including pneumonia, seizures and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease.
While flu vaccines protect everyone, they are especially important for certain groups:
- Pregnant women;
- Children younger than 5 years of age;
- Adults who are 50 years of age and older;
- People of any age whose immune system is compromised due to disease or medication;
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease, or lung disease or conditions affecting the nervous system, such as multiple sclerosis and seizure disorders;
- People who are overweight or obese;
- People who work or live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities; and,
- Health care personnel and day care workers.
Influenza Vaccination Resources
Residents are encouraged to contact their regular healthcare provider to schedule an appointment for a flu vaccine. Most insurance plans cover immunizations at no cost to the patient. Many pharmacies also offer influenza vaccines. While charges do apply, pharmacies may be able to bill insurance for vaccines.
For individuals without health insurance or another source of health care, Public Health will begin offering flu vaccinations at special community outreach events.
Upcoming Events Offering Free Flu Vaccinations
Free flu vaccination clinics will be held from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Oct. 25 at:
- Highland Park Recreation Facility, 6150 Piedmont Ave., L.A.
- South El Monte Senior Center, 1530 Central Ave., South El Monte
- A list of Public Health’s flu vaccination events
- A searchable map of pharmacies offering flu vaccines
- A list of community clinics that offer vaccines at no-cost or a reduced cost
- Influenza educational materials
Residents may also call the LA County Information Line at 2-1-1 for referrals to flu vaccination sites.