Health departments still out of vaccine

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 17, 2003

NATCHEZ &045;&045; Health officials in Adams County surrounding counties did have a few flu shots to give as of Tuesday. Then they blinked.

&uot;We had 180 (vaccine doses) to distribute among our seven counties,&uot; said Ren/ Smyra, administrator for District 7 of the Mississippi State Department of Health, which includes Adams and surrounding counties.

&uot;But there were only seven pediatric shots available (Tuesday) morning&uot; and no more adult shots,&uot; Smyra said. &uot;And by the time this article gets in the paper, there’ll be none.&uot;

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That’s the best the Health Department could do given the run on flu vaccine nationwide, spurred in large part due to news of severe outbreaks in Texas and Colorado, health officials have said.

Across the Mississippi River, personnel in the Concordia Parish Health Unit said they ran out of vaccine earlier this season, haven’t received any more at all and don’t know when, or if, they will.

Although statistics for Adams County and Louisiana were not available as of press time, Mississippi health offices have given out more than 140,000 flu shots this season alone, a record-breaking number.

Meanwhile, health officials say that healthy people 5 to 49 years old can use FluMist, an alternative to the flu vaccine. County health department clinics do not offer FluMist, but it should be available through private providers.

In addition to flu and pneumonia vaccinations &045;&045; the latter of which is still available &045;&045; health officials suggest people take the following measures to reduce the spread of flu:

4Use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing; dispose of the tissue immediately and wash hands thoroughly.

4Wash your hands with soap and hot water for at least 20 seconds.

4Rinse and dry hands with a disposable towel. Use a towel to turn off the faucet.

4Stay home from work or school for five to seven days if you have flu-like symptoms.

4Call your local health care provider if you think you have the flu. Medications can be prescribed for those with the flu.

In addition, said Mississippi State Epidemiologist Dr. Mary Currier, people at highest risk for the flu, including the elderly and those with compromised immune systems, may need to consider staying out of crowded places during flu season.

But the most important thing to remember this flu season, despite the headlines, &uot;is not to panic,&uot; Currier said. &uot;The flu’s not fun to have, but most people get over it and are fine.&uot;