The best offense is a good defense.
As flu season approaches, many people choose to make the flu shot a part of their game plans.
To tackle some common flu shot questions, the following information was provided through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Sharon Schaeffer, epidemiologist and public health preparedness coordinator with the Erie County Health Department:
Q: How does a flu shot work?
A: The shot provides protection against three strains of the flu virus based on scientists' predictions about what strains will be most common that year. About two weeks after getting a flu shot, the body produces antibodies that protect against the flu.
Q: If the flu shot has the virus in it, won't it give me the flu?
A: The viruses in the flu shot are killed, which means they can't make you sick.
Q: When should I get a flu shot?
A: The CDC says that the best time to get a flu shot is in October and November.
Q: Will a flu shot completely prevent the flu?
A: Not always. The effectiveness of a flu shot depends on a person's age and health, along with how closely the virus strains in the shot "match" the virus strains that appear that year. Testing has shown the flu shot works for most people.
Q: Who should get a flu shot?
A: Anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting sick with the flu should get a shot. People older than 65 years of age and children younger than 2 years old are at the highest risk for infection. People with long-term or chronic health problems such as heart disease, lung disease, asthma, kidney disease, diabetes, anemia or other blood disorders, or anyone with a weakened immune system is also considered to be at high risk and should get a shot.
Q: Who should not get a flu shot?
A: People with a severe allergy to chicken eggs, those who have had a severe reaction to a flu shot in the past, children younger than 6 months of age, or those who are sick with a fever should not get a flu shot.
Q: Does the flu shot have any side effects?
A: Most people don't experience any side effects from the flu shot. Some minor side effects may include soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, a low-grade fever, or aches. "Using your arm for regular daily activities should help relieve any soreness you experience," Shaeffer said.
Q: How much does a flu shot cost?
A: At most clinics and health departments, the flu shot costs about $20 to $25. Medicare, Medicaid and most insurance policies are often, but not always, accepted for a flu shot.
Q: When is the flu season?
A: The annual flu season runs from late fall through April.
Q: How many people get sick each year?
A: According to CDC statistics, about 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and some 36,000 people die from the flu each year.
Q: What will this flu season be like?
A: "It's impossible to tell," said Curtis Allen, spokesman for the CDC. While the flu season usually peaks during January or February, it is impossible to predict when the flu will be at its worst.
Q: Why have there been flu shot shortages in the past?
A: In past years, there have been shortages of the vaccine for several different reasons, including production problems and slow growth of the virus for use in shots.
Q: Will there be a shortage this year?
This year there will be 132 million doses of the vaccine available in the U.S.
"There is no anticipated shortage," Allen said. "We are not "tier-ing" or prioritizing for high risk as we have in the past."
In addition to local health departments, doctors and hospitals, flu shots are available at numerous pharmacy and retail clinics throughout the year.
Where to catch a flu shot:
ERIE COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT
420 Superior St., Sandusky
Clinics begin in October
HURON COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT
180 Milan Ave., Norwalk
Clinics begin in October
OTTAWA COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT
1856 E. Perry St., Port Clinton
Clinics begin at the end of October
SANDUSKY COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT
2000 Countryside Drive, Fremont
Clinics begin in October
SENECA COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT
71 S. Washington St., Suite 1102, Tiffin
Clinics begin end of October
Upcoming flu shot clinics:
FIRELANDS REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER, Sandusky
Cost: $20 for flu vaccine, $30 for pneumonia vaccine; covered by Medicare
Oct. 9: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. drive-thru clinic at Cedar Point parking lot
Oct. 16: 2-5 p.m. drive-thru clinic at Cedar Point parking lot
Oct. 21: 8-11 a.m. St. Anthony's Church Fellowship Hall, Milan
Oct. 24: 7-10 a.m. and 3-6 p.m., FRMC South Campus Community Resource Room
Oct. 27: 8-11 a.m. Faith Memorial Assembly of God, Perkins Township
4-6 p.m. Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Sandusky
Oct. 28: 8 a.m. to 12 p.m., Sts. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, Sandusky
MAGRUDER HOSPITAL, Port Clinton
Oct. 13: 12-4 p.m., Apple Festival, Oak Harbor
Oct. 14: 12-4 p.m., Apple Festival, Oak Harbor
Nov. 2: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., VIP Club and public flu shots, at hospital
Nov. 4: 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., Immaculate Conception Health Fair, Port Clinton
Cost: $25 for flu shot
Oct. 26: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m., Bellevue Hospital, East Conference Room
(Ages 15 and older only; anyone age 15-18 will need parent or guardian present)
FISHER-TITUS MEDICAL CENTER, Norwalk
No clinics scheduled at this time