Justin Johnson was among the first of Aurora Health Care Center's employees to roll up his sleeve for a seasonal flu shot Monday.
The health information clerk took the opportunity at lunch time to be immunized along with his co-workers at the first seasonal flu clinic for Aurora employees. Johnson has limited contact with patients but considers it his responsibility to get a flu shot each year. He swears by them.
"They've always worked," he said.
One down and one to go. In addition to the seasonal flu shot Johnson said he plans to get the H1N1 flu shot when it becomes available statewide in mid to late October.
Health care providers would like it if all area residents who need flu shots would be a careful as Johnson. And as informed.
The problem is that area residents remain confused about which shots they need, when they can get them and how the shots protect them.
Mary Dittmar, Aurora's Shoo the Flu coordinator, stressed that this year people can become ill from two different types of flu – seasonal and H1N1 – hence the need for both vaccinations.
H1N1 gets a lot of attention, but it's important to note that seasonal flu can affect up to 20 percent of the population and is responsible for 36,000 deaths nationwide each year, according to information provided by Aurora.
Specific numbers of flu cases are not available. Some recent changes regarding the monitoring and reporting of flu cases have been put into place by the Wisconsin Department of Health.
"Individual cases are not reported, hospitalizations and deaths are," said Doug Gieryn, director of the Winnebago County health department.
Flu activity actually declined last week in northeastern Wisconsin, Gieryn said. In the past month, there were 322 probable and confirmed H1N1 cases statewide, including six hospitalizations and no deaths.
Following the advice of the Centers for Disease Control, local health care providers are stressing that people receive the seasonal flu vaccine as early as possible. A myth floating around that early immunizations will wear off and make people vulnerable to illness before the flu season ends might be causing people to delay getting their shots, said Karla Repta, director of clinic patient care services for Affinity Health System.
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Early immunizations will cover them for the entire season, Repta said.
People seeking seasonal flu shots from Affinity can obtain them in three ways: if they already have a scheduled appointment with their health care provider they can request an immunization at the same time; they can call their doctor and make an appointment specifically for the shot; or they can attend mass immunization clinics scheduled in the area.
The first mass clinic by Affinity will be held Oct. 10. They will be held every four weeks throughout December.
The first H1N1 flu clinic could be held locally as early as next week, Gieryn said. But this one is for health care providers and emergency personnel. About 3,500 doses of the vaccine will be provided countywide for this first group.
The next group includes school children, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions. Vaccines for that group should be available by mid to late October and county and city health departments will work with local schools to hold clinics in the schools. The third batch of vaccines for the general public will be distributed at a later date. It is less crucial for the elderly to receive the H1N1 vaccine because those over 60 yeas of age already carry immunity to that strain of flu, Dittmar said.
However, the state will receive sufficient doses for all those that want them. The plan is to target the priority groups first, Gieryn said.
Health care professionals continue to stress the need for frequent hand washing, covering coughs and staying home from work and school when you are sick, Repta said.
Groups, local governments plan seasonal flu clinics
Clinics around the area are planning vaccination clinics to protect against the seasonal flu. Here is a roundup of upcoming clinics:
Oshkosh Health Division
Cost: Free. Donations accepted.
Clinics: Tuesday by appointment only at Oshkosh City Hall, 215 Church Ave., room 206. Vaccines given include FluMist and an injectible seasonal flu vaccine, as well as childhood vaccines, Td and Tdap boosters, and the HPV vaccine.
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For more: Call (920) 236-5030 to make an appointment.
Aurora Visiting Nurse Association
Cost: $30 for flu shots; $45 for pneumonia vaccinations. Medicare Part B and Medicaid cover the costs of both.
Clinics: Oct. 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Festival Foods, 2415 Westowne Ave., Oshkosh, and Piggly Wiggly, 142 Alder Ave., Omro; Oct. 6 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Aurora Health Center, 414 Doctors Court; Oct. 7 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at St. Andrews Evangelical Lutheran Church, 1100 E. Murdock Ave.; Oct. 8 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Piggly Wiggly, 525 E. Murdock Ave.; and Oct. 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Bella Vista, 631 Hazel St.
For more: See www.aurora.org/flu or call (800) 548-7580.
Valley VNA Senior Services
Cost: $30 for influenza vaccine; $44 for pneumonia vaccine. Medicare Part B and most Medicare Advantage Plans will cover the cost of both vaccines. Participants are asked to bring all health insurance cards with them to the clinic.
Area clinics: Thursdays in October from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Wittman Regional Airport, 535 W. 20th Ave.; and Mondays (Sept. 28 to Oct. 26) from 9 a.m. to noon and Tuesdays (Sept. 29 to Oct. 27) from 3 to 6 p.m., both at Valley VNA Senior Services, 1535 Lyon Drive, Neenah.
For more: Visit www.valleyvna.org.
Green Lake County
Cost: $30 for the seasonal flu shot, $53 for the pneumonia vaccine, unless you have Medicare Part B or belong to a Medicare HMO and present your card at the time of your appointment.
Clinics: Wednesday from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at Green Lake County Human Services; Oct. 5 from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. at the Princeton American Legion; and Oct. 6 from 2 to 4 p.m. at Grace Lutheran Church in Berlin. Due to limited inventory of flu vaccine, the vaccination programs are scheduled so highest priority is given to adults who are most likely to experience complications from influenza. As future shipments of vaccine are delivered, more clinics will be scheduled, including free vaccine clinics for eligible children.