The Saratoga Sun -

Giving health a shot in the arm

Wyoming Department of Health officials urge flu shots


As winter begins to creep in to the state and the Valley, state and local health officials are urging everyone to be prepared and get immunized against the flu.

The Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) recommends everyone above the age of 6-months-old who does not have contraindications be immunized against the flu.

“Nearly everyone six months or older should get immunized against the flu,” Alexia Harrist, state epidemiologist with WDH, said. “Flu shots are safe and the most important action people can take to help prevent getting ill with influenza and passing it on to others.”

According to a release by WDH, the flu has already been reported in some pockets of Wyoming.

For the week ending October 14, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) classified Wyoming as having sporadic flu cases, but neighboring Colorado was shown as having localized activity.

According to Toni Rietveld, a public health nurse with the Carbon County Public Health Office in Saratoga, so far there have not been any confirmed cases in Carbon County despite 25 confirmed cases in other parts of the state as of last week.

Typically, flu infections peak in the Valley sometime around February and March, Reitveld said.

Last year, there were 15 deaths in Wyoming confirmed as caused by influenza, according to Reggie McClinton of WDH. The CDC reported 209 deaths in the state attributed to influenza and pneumonia, but neither agency tests for the presence of flu in the case of every death.

Rietveld said anyone 6 months of age or more should get the vaccine, unless there is good medical reason not to, such as babies under the age of 6 months, or if a person is allergic to the vaccine.

For babies 6-months-old or more who are getting their first flu vaccination, they are given a two-dose shot, with each dose given four weeks apart, Rietveld said, adding that for those allergic to the vaccine, there are other versions available that are made without egg, the common allergen that precludes some from receiving the immunization.

Since 2010, the CDC has recommended everyone be immunized against the flu if possible. Harrist of WDH said anyone can get the flu and while healthy people do usually recover, they can still pass the virus to more vulnerable people, such as young and the elderly.

Rietveld said some groups should absolutely get the vaccine, including babies, pregnant women, the elderly and young children, as well as people with chronic diseases such as respiratory illnesses, heart disease and diabetes, which all increase risk from flu.

“It’s better to get the vaccine earlier,” Rieltveld said. “It takes about two weeks after receiving the vaccine for antibodies to build up.”

The vaccine is available at the Public Health Office in Saratoga, located at 201 S. River Street. The cost of the vaccine at the department is $25, and most health insurance policies cover the cost, Rietveld said.

Those who want vaccines at the agency should call ahead, she said. “We’ve given quite a few vaccinations, and are about at the end of the supply we have, but we should be able to order more.”

The vaccine offered by the department is the quadrivalent vaccine, which covers four strains of flu, including a strain of H1N1 and and another H3N2 strain.

According to CDC, H1N1 and H3N2 strains are particularly bad news, and according to data published by that agency, flu deaths spike in years when those strains are prevalent.

The vaccine is also available at the Platte Valley Medical Clinic in Saratoga, as well as several locations in Rawlins.


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