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ASU joins Craighead County in flu shot mass dispensing plan Thursday, Nov. 6

Oct. 20, 2008 -- Arkansas State University and the Craighead County Health Unit will join forces Thursday, Nov. 6, to practice a local mass dispensing plan for flu vaccination. Approximately 3,000 doses of free influenza vaccine will be administered to persons aged six months and older at the Convocation Center on the ASU campus in the Hames Rooms from 7 a.m.-4 p.m. Citizens may come into the Convocation Center or remain in their vehicles and utilize one of the drive-through lines.  The Craighead County Health Unit is part of 81 health units statewide that are participating in one-day mass flu vaccination clinics.

The purpose of the clinic is to provide flu vaccine to Craighead County citizens and also to exercise the county’s mass dispensing plan, designed to insure that health professionals and volunteers are prepared to vaccinate or dispense medication to a large population in a very short period of time.  If Arkansas were ever to experience pandemic influenza or another such disaster, it might be necessary to distribute medications to many citizens quickly.

“As an instructor on campus, I received a phone call from the Office of Emergency Management asking for help in formulating an immunization clinic as a drill,” said Debbie Shelton, assistant professor of nursing at ASU. “Instead of focusing our work on the formulation of a mock drill, I suggested that we use our mass flu clinic as the drill. Amy Howell of the Craighead County Health Unit agreed to allow us the opportunity to ‘practice’ this drill with her help, as securing a location for the flu clinic is often a challenge. St. Bernards has helped with the marketing in the past and agreed to come on board again this year.”

Shelton, a Basic Disaster Life Support/Advanced Disaster Life Support (BDLS/ADLS) instructor at ASU who teaches community health nursing, said senior bachelor of science in nursing students have been utilized for the administration of flu shots for the last few years, and 40 ASU students and four instructors, plus the nursing crew from the Craighead Public Health Department will administer the injections on Nov. 6. Arkansas State University is a certified regional training center for BDLS/ADLS classes spearheaded by Dr. Debbie Persell who has a doctoral degree from the University of Tennessee’s Homeland Security Nursing Program.

“The time to practice dispensing large amounts of medication is now before we have a disaster,” said Dr. Joe Stallings, Craighead County health officer.  “It’s important for Craighead County citizens to get their flu shots to protect them from influenza this year.  It’s also important to exercise our county mass dispensing plan. Please bring your Medicaid, Medicare and/or state insurance card, and we will file your paperwork for you. There will be no charge to those who do not have coverage and are unable to pay.”

If a disaster were to occur, public health response teams, healthcare providers, county government and emergency management would need to mobilize quickly and activate their emergency response plans.  This one-day event will provide an opportunity for public health professionals to collaborate with other emergency response teams and test the effectiveness of the plans in the event of a national or local flu pandemic or bioterrorism incident.  Craighead County Office of Emergency Management, St. Bernards Medical Center, ASU School of Nursing, and ASU Office of Emergency Management are collaborating with the Craighead County Health Unit to exercise the county mass dispensing plan.

“ASU is co-hosting this event on our campus as an exercise to measure our ability to facilitate mass inoculations in case the health department deems it necessary to have mass inoculations for Craighead County,” said Starr Fenner, director of the Environmental Health and Safety department at ASU.  “Also, this event will be used to test our National Incident Response System (NIMS) so ASU can improve our response to emergency situations.”

Craighead County citizens are encouraged to participate in this practice event and receive a free flu shot.

The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) reports that there is an ample supply of flu vaccine this year.  Arkansas is receiving 263,000 doses of the vaccine for use in local public health clinics, nursing homes and Vaccines for Children provider offices.  Vaccine will be delivered to all clinics and will be available to the public free at the one-day mass dispensing clinics. After the clinics, shots will cost $20 per shot for anyone not enrolled in Medicare or Medicaid, the Vaccines for Children Program, or selected state insurance programs.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.  It can cause mild to severe illness and results in 25-50 million infections and 36,000 deaths in the United States each year. Influenza symptoms include fever (usually high), headache, extreme fatigue, sore throat, muscle aches, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, and occasionally stomach symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

The influenza virus is spread through coughing or sneezing and by touching a hard surface with the virus on it and then touching your nose or mouth.  The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated each year.  You cannot catch the flu from the vaccination.  The vaccination uses a dead virus and cannot cause you to get the flu.  The vaccine usually becomes effective two weeks after being administered; therefore, the best time to be vaccinated is mid-October and November.  However, it can still be beneficial to get the vaccine even later as typical flu season runs from mid-December through March.

Though all persons older than six months of age should get a flu shot each year, those most at risk for influenza disease complications are:

        people 50 years of age and older, 
        children ages six months through four years,
        adults and children with chronic lung or heart disorders including heart disease
     and  asthma,
        pregnant women,
        adults and children with chronic metabolic diseases (including diabetes), kidney
     diseases, blood disorders (such as sickle cell anemia), or weakened immune   
     systems, including persons with HIV/AIDS,
        residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities,
        children and teenagers, six months to 18 years of age who take aspirin daily,
        Adults and children who have any condition such as spinal cord injuries and other  
      neuromuscular problems that could result in a reduced ability to cough,

To prevent the spread of flu to persons who are at high risk for complications, flu vaccination is also recommended for the following persons:
         Health care providers,
         Healthy household contacts (including children) and caregivers of children less
      than five years old,
         Caregivers of adults 50 years of age and older,
         Caregivers of persons with high-risk medical conditions.

There are two types of flu vaccines that are available and effective for preventing the flu. One
is the familiar flu shot with a needle, and the other is the intranasal spray flu vaccine which is needle-free.  The intranasal spray flu vaccine is approved for use in healthy people two to 49 years of age who are not pregnant. The nasal spray vaccine will not be available at ADH clinics.

“For many years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and physicians have recommended that all pregnant women get the flu shot since they are at high risk for complications. It is especially effective when received at the proper time of year—just before flu season,” said Dr. Richard Nugent, Branch Chief for Family Health in the Center for Health Advancement at the Arkansas Department of Health. “We have known that the shot protects pregnant women. Now we know that the protection for the mother also extends to the baby, even for a short time after the baby is born.”

Persons who should not receive influenza vaccine for health reasons are persons with a severe allergy (i.e., an anaphylactic allergic reaction) to eggs, and persons who previously had history of Guillain-Barre syndrome during the six weeks after receiving influenza vaccine.

An influenza vaccination offers 70 percent to 90 percent protection against infection and can decrease the severity and side effects if you do get sick.

For more information on seasonal influenza and to get the location and time for the flu clinic nearest you, go to www.healthyarkansas.com. If you want to learn more about the flu, click on http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.
           

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