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Beating the Flu: Vaccinations Urged for All

By Tammy Daniels
07:00AM / Friday, November 23, 2007
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Margaret Moruzzi administers the flu vaccine to Peggy LaPine at Monday's clinic at the Spruces.
Peggy LaPine has been faithfully getting her flu shot every year for the past 25 years. "I had the flu a long time ago," said the Williamstown resident as registered nurse Margaret Moruzzi dispensed the vaccine in a matter of seconds, "but not once since getting the shots." LaPine was one of the thousand or so recipients so far this season of flu shots given out at clinics run by the Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice of Northern Berkshire. "Obviously, [flu shots] are recommended for people 65 and older and anyone with a chronic condition," said Karen Bednarz, a registered nurse and clinical supervisor who has been coordinating the clinics for years. But vaccinations aren't limited to those groups. "Unless there's a medical condition or reason you should not (such as egg allergies), it is highly recommended you get one." The clinics, which often are held in senior centers and residences, have been full but not overwhelmed. "We're dependent on the state, and we got [the vaccine] a little later than the doctors' offices [this year]," said Bednarz.
Staying Healthy in Flu Season
  • Avoid close contact.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands frequently.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Practice other good health habits.
The VNA will hold two more clinics in December at its Curran Highway facility in North Adams, which are usually very well attended, she said. (For a list of scheduled clinics, see below.) Influenza is a contagious virus that causes respiratory illness. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, anywhere from 5 to 20 percent of Americans contract the virus every year and some 200,000 end up in hospitals from complications; 36,000 die from the flu. Anyone can get the virus, and complications - such as pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus infections - can occur at any age. National Influenza Vaccination Week is next week, with Nov. 27 set aside specifically to raise awareness about getting children vaccinated. The event is designed to highlight the importance of flu shots. Flu symptoms include high fever, headaches, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults. Despite some overlapping symptons, the flu is not the common cold. That's something many people get confused, said Bednarz. "A flu shot does not protect against the common cold," she said. Nor does having had a cold mean you're now immune to the flu. "People with colds figure they already had it [and don't get a flu shot]." And some people wait until everyone around them is sick before getting the shot - far too late. It takes up to two weeks for the vaccination to become effective, said Bednarz. Someone with the flu can pass on the contagion at least a day before the symptoms appear and up to five days after that. Some rush to get their shots in September - a little too early. The CDC suggests October and November as the prime months. "The flu strain in Massachusetts peaks in March," said Bednarz, and vaccinations will be given out into January. "People who think its too late to get a shot are mistaken." The vaccines are developed to target particular viruses and close cousins. Vaccines are given annually to take into account the changing nature of the viruses and the gradual decline in protection. LaPine was among the first in line at the Spruces clinic on Monday morning, but hardly the last as cars arrived in the parking lot to spill a stream of seniors into the recreation hall. Mary A. Smith of Williamstown, 76, said she'd been getting her shot, too, every year she'd been living here. "I had the flu one or two times before," she said. "I don't want it again." Registered nurse Joyce Kelley, who also was giving shots at the clinic, said that while it was important for seniors to be vaccinated, "people who work with the elderly and children should be vaccinated, too." Some people can have reactions to the vaccine. Anyone unsure of whether they should get a flu shot should call their doctor, said Bednarz. In the recent past, there have been shortages and delivery problems with the vaccine. But not this year. "There are no limitations and no shortages, so nobody has an excuse," said Bednarz. Flu Clinics: ●Wednesday, Nov. 28, at the Adams Council on Aging from 10 to noon and at the Cheshire Senior Center from 2 to 4 p.m. ●Friday, Nov. 30, at the Savoy Senior Center from 9 to 10 a.m. ●Friday, Nov. 30, at the Florida Senior Center from 10:30 to noon. These clinics are being held by the Northern Berkshire VNA; for clinics in other parts of the county, contact your local VNA, council on aging or medical provider.
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