OCTOBER HEALTH PAGE
Flu vaccines help protect the community
The CDC recommends “flu vaccination as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.” Flu is unpredictable; therefore, the Toe River Health District is urging people to get vaccinated.
Getting a flu vaccine is easy. It is available through doctors, the local health department and at many retail pharmacies. Employers, schools and colleges and universities also offer flu vaccinations. So, when out and about in the community and there are signs offering the flu shot, or when visiting the doctor for a routine check-up, remember: the flu ends with “U.”
North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Mandy Cohen, M.D., got her flu shot and encouraged others to get vaccinated, too, with the flu season underway.
“The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent serious illness and help stop the spread of the flu, especially for vulnerable populations like young children and people 65 and older,” Cohen said. “If you have not gotten your flu shot yet, don’t delay and be sure to plan to get one soon.”
People at highest risk of complications from the flu include adults 65 and older, young children, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease. Of the 219 flu deaths reported in the state during the 2016-17 season, more than 150 cases involved a person 65 or older.
A flu activity report already released for the 2017-18 flu season in North Carolina indicated sporadic flu activity across the state.
“Sporadic activity is typical for this time of year,” said state epidemiologist Zack Moore, M.D. “We expect flu activity to increase in coming months, which is why it’s important to get vaccinated now.”
According to studies cited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, vaccination against the flu can:
• protect people who are at greater risk of becoming seriously ill from flu, like older adults, young children, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions;
• Make illness milder and reduce the risk of more serious outcomes; and
• Protect pregnant women and their developing baby.
For the second year in a row, the CDC is recommending the injectable vaccine instead of the nasal spray.
Flu shots are now available from 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the health departments in Avery, Mitchell and Yancey counties. High-dose influenza vaccine, available upon request, is available for people age 65 years and older. Just as other flu vaccines, the high-dose is made up of the three to four flu strains most likely to cause the flu during the upcoming season. Flu shots are free of charge to patients with health insurance coverage. The health department bills most major health insurances, including, but not limited to: Blue Cross Blue Shield, Medicare, Medicaid and Humana. For people who are underinsured or uninsured, the cost of the flu shot is $35 for a standard dose and $60 for the high-dose; the pneumonia shot is $119.
Call the Avery County Health Department at 828-733-6031; the Mitchell County Health Department at 828-688-2371; or the Yancey County Health Department at 828-682-6118 for more information about the influenza vaccine.
WIC allows low-income families meet nutritional needs
More families than ever are finding it hard to put healthy food on their dinner tables. For young children, a lack of good nutrition can put them at risk for health problems and problems in school.
North Carolina’s WIC program helps low-income families meet the nutritional needs of pregnant and post-partum women, infants and children up to age 5.
The North Carolina WIC Program currently serves an average of 270,000 participants each month.
Studies show that children who participate in WIC are more likely to receive regular preventive health services and are better immunized than children who did not participate in WIC.
Breastfeeding promotion and support is an important part of the WIC Program.
All WIC agencies have trained staff ready to assist moms in making informed decisions about how they feed their babies. WIC also teaches moms the basics of breastfeeding.
WIC participants receive helpful one-on-one counseling with a nutrition professional. Better educated moms mean healthier babies. Medicaid beneficiaries who participated in WIC had lower infant mortality rates than Medicaid beneficiaries who did not participate in WIC. WIC participation also decreases the incidence of low birth weight and pre-term births.
“WIC is so much more than people realize,” said Jessica Thomas, WIC director. “The nutrition education and healthy foods that WIC provides really give children a healthy start in life, which is so important.”