News

There's still time for a flu shot

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

Though the flu season is well under way, Federal Way residents still have time to take preventative measures against an unpleasant illness.

Influenza is a lung infection caused by a virus — one that spreads easily and mutates often, resulting in several strains, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

Influenza targets people of all ages, especially children and the elderly. People with medical conditions such as cancer, lung or kidney disease and diabetes are most prone to influenza, according to the health department.

Each year, between 5 and 20 percent of Americans experience fever, headache, dry cough, muscle aches, weakness, congestion, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea — all symptoms of influenza, according to the health department’s Web site.

Annually, about 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die as a result of influenza, according to the health department.

Generally, those who contract influenza experience symptoms that last only a short while. However, the illness often requires the infected to take bed rest, and it puts a damper on everyday activities.

A flu shot can serve as a precaution against the virus. The shot is a vaccine that contains an inactive form of the virus and is administered via needle.

Each winter, shots are offered throughout most communities. Top Food and Drug, 31515 20th Ave. S. in Federal Way, offers influenza shots annually on designated days. The service is a way to make customers’ lives easier, said spokeswoman Becky Skaggs.

“Influenza is no fun, as we all know,” Skaggs said.

Anyone over age 14 is welcome to receive an influenza shot, given by a nurse in the grocery store’s pharmacy, Skaggs said. The grocer’s Kent and Auburn locations have pharmacists on staff to personally administer the shots upon customer request, she said.

During the last weekend of October, about 50 to 75 people attended the Federal Way Top Food and Drug’s last influenza shot event of the season, manager Jackie Rayford said.

“Usually there are people lined up (to receive a shot),” she said.

Other Federal Way locations will continue giving residents influenza shots through the new year. Virginia Mason Medical Center, 33501 1st Way S., began offering the shots Oct. 8 and will administer them on multiple days throughout November and into 2008.

The medical center is trying to increase influenza shot rates among the public, spokeswoman Kim Davis said. People convince themselves they do not have enough time to get a shot, she said. They often think influenza shots can only be received early in the winter season, but Virginia Mason Medical Clinic offers the shots into January, Davis said.

To entice the public to get an influenza shot, the medical clinic has gone as far as offering drive-through shots, Davis said. Through the medical center’s “double shot” event, residents in Seattle, Issaquah, Kirkland and Bellevue can drive to a Virginia Mason clinic and receive an influenza shot without ever having to leave their vehicles, Davis said. Along with the shot comes another shot — a cup of coffee, she said.

“We want to make it fun (to get influenza shots), but we want to make it quick for people,” Davis said.

The double shot program has not made its way to Federal Way, but its locations expand each year, she said.

Contact Jacinda Howard: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com

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Despite rumors that an influenza shot can actually cause one to become infected with influenza, the Washington State Department of Health assures this is only a fable. An influenza shot will only protect against the illness for one year because a new strain of the virus may emerge in the next year, according to www.doh.wa.gov/.

Several options exist for locating establishments that administer influenza shots:

Call a local doctor, nurse or medical clinic.

Check the American Lung Association’s influenza shot locator at www.influenzacliniclocator.org.

View a list of local health departments at www.doh.wa.gov/LHJMap/LHJMap.htm.

Call the Family Health Hotline at (800) 322-2588.

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