Flu season is approaching once again -- but you don't have to go into it unarmed.
A flu shot may be the answer to keeping at bay symptoms that include fever, cough, sore throat, headache, chills, muscle aches, vomiting and fatigue.
Area hospitals and county health departments are hosting vaccination clinics from now through mid-November.
To answer your questions, we spoke with a few experts -- including Firelands Regional Medical Center community outreach director Mary Bauer, corporate health director Sandie Beal and Ohio Department of Health spokesman Kristopher Weiss.
Q: How serious of a concern is flu in Ohio?
A: Some 3,000 Ohioans die of flu and its complications each year, making the flu among the top 10 causes of death in the state, Weiss said. Each flu season, about 36,000 Americans die from the flu, and an additional 200,000 are hospitalized, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Q: Who is most at risk?
A: Rates of infection are highest among children and pose serious risk for youth and the elderly, Bauer said. People with existing health problems such as diabetes, heart disease or cancer are also high risk.
Q: How does the vaccine work?
A: There are two types of vaccines:
*The flu shot -- an inactivated vaccine containing killed virus that is given with a syringe. The shot is approved for use in people older than 6 months.
*The nasal-spray flu vaccine -- a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses. These may be given to healthy people ages 5-49 who are not pregnant.
The shot or spray causes your body to produce antibodies to the three strains of flu expected to make the rounds this year in the United States. Those antibodies shield you against the flu.
Q: When should I get vaccinated?
A: The vaccine is most beneficial if received in October or November, Beal said. Influenza can occur any time from November through May, but it tends to peak in January and February.
Q: How much do the vaccines cost?
A: Cost varies, but most range from $10 for high-risk adults to $20-23 for those who do not meet that criteria and $35-$38 for the pneumonia vaccine. The cost is typically out-of-pocket, Beal said, though some insurance companies will pay for it. Medicare will cover the costs of one flu vaccine and one dose of the pneumonia vaccine after age 65.
Q: Where can I go for my vaccine? (Listings through the end of October)
A: Weiss said the Ohio Department of Health ordered 560,000 doses for the upcoming flu season for some 700 providers, including local health departments, community health clinics and physicians.
Erie County Health Department, 420 Superior St. Call 419-626-5623 or visit eriecohealthohio.org.
Firelands Regional Medical Center flu clinics:
Today: 8-11 a.m. at the Community Resource Room, South Campus, 1912 Hayes Ave.
Oct. 21: Drive-thru flu shot clinic from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Cedar Point parking lot.
Oct. 25: 4-6 p.m. at St. Anthony Catholic Church, 145 South Center St., Milan
Oct. 26: 8:30 a.m. to noon at Grace Episcopal Church, 315 Wayne St.
Oct. 28: Drive-thru flu shot clinic from 2-5 p.m. in the Cedar Point parking lot.
Oct. 29: 7:30-10:30 a.m. and 2:30-5:30 p.m. in the Community Resource Room, South Campus.
(For November clinic listings, call Ruth Meade at 419-557-5507, or visit firelands.com.)
Huron County Health Department, 180 Milan Ave., Norwalk. Call 419-668-1652 for appointments.
Bellevue: 8-10 a.m. Thursday at the VFW, 6104 U.S. 20 West.
Norwalk: 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at the Huron County Fairgrounds, 940 Fair Road.
New London: 1-4 p.m. Oct. 20 at the First Baptist Church, 432 Park Ave.
Willard: 7-9 a.m. Oct. 22 at the Willard Alliance Church, 1609 S. Conwell Ave.
Wakeman: 7-9 a.m. Oct. 29 at St. Mary's Church, 46 E. Main St.
Bellevue Hospital clinics:
Thursday: 4-7 p.m., Bellevue Hospital east conference room.
Oct. 22: 9 a.m. to noon, Bellevue Four County Young-at-Heart Senior Center, 690 Flat Rock Road.
Oct. 24: 8-11 a.m., Bellevue Immaculate Conception Church, 231 E. Center St.
Oct. 30: 9 a.m.-noon, Clyde St. Paul's Lutheran Church, 143 W. Forest St.
Cost is $20 per flu shot or free with Medicare Part B.
For information, call Jackie Shelley at 419-483-4040.
Ottawa County Health Department
1856 E. Perry St., Port Clinton
Clinics are ongoing and cost $20 per shot. Call 419-734-6800 to schedule an appointment.
Oct. 22: 8-11 a.m. Oct. 22 at the Magruder Conference Center
Oct. 29: Noon to 3 p.m. at the Magruder Conference Center
Cost is $23 per person. For information call 419-734-3131.
Sandusky County Health Department, 2000 Countryside Drive, Fremont. Call 419-334-6377 for appointments.
Seneca County Health Department, 71 S. Washington St., Suite 1102, Tiffin. Call 419-447-3691 for appointments.