Although no official cases of the flu have been confirmed in the Pittsburgh area yet this season, local health officials are urging residents to get a flu shot during National Influenza Week (December 2-8).
"We're approaching that time of year when you start to see influenza activity," said Guillermo Cole, spokesman for the Allegheny County Health Department. "Influenza typically starts in late fall and peaks in the winter sometime in late January or February."
Cole said they offer vaccinations at their Oakland clinic Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Wednesdays from 1 to 8 p.m. and there are no appointments. The flu shots are free for children six months to 18 years of age and the cost is covered for people with Medicare Part B. Otherwise the charge is $25.
"Vaccinations are recommended for everyone six months of age and older," Cole said. "It's important for people to get the shot, especially the higher risk segments of the population that would include the elderly and those with chronic medical conditions. Those people are more susceptible to suffering complications like pneumonia."
According to Cole, the innoculation protects against three strains of influenza--two Type As and one Type B: "they cause the same symptoms, upper respiratory mild to severe illness and sometimes leading to death primarily in the elderly and the chronically ill."
He said it's good to get the vaccination now before the worst of the flu season hits. "It doesn't give you immediate protection, it usually takes about two weeks to build up your immunity."
And if you don't like needles? "A nasal spray vaccine is approved for certain people two to 49 [years old] who have no chronic medical conditions." The spray vaccine is free for children and $10 for adults 19 to 49 years old.