The Pittsylvania-Danville Health District will offer free seasonal flu vaccine at a special clinic Saturday, Feb. 2 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Danville Community Farmers’ Market located at 629 Craghead St. in Danville.

A limited supply of free influenza vaccine will be available for this event on a first-come, first-served basis for all, ages 3 and older.

“We’ve already documented cases of influenza this season in the area, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Virginia Department of Health recommend vaccination each year for everyone six months and older,” said Scott J. Spillmann, MD, MPH, director, Pittsylvania-Danville Health District. “Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza and its potentially severe complications. Influenza is widespread in Virginia at this time and this year’s vaccine is a good match with the currently circulating strains of influenza; this means that this year’s vaccine will likely protect folks even more than usual.”

“The timing and duration of flu seasons vary - they can occur from early fall to late spring - so you should get the vaccine as soon as it’s available,” said Cynthia Robotti, DNP, RN, PHCNS-C, nurse manager for the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District. “It takes up to two weeks to develop the vaccine’s full protection, and the benefits last for up to a year; getting your vaccine in early February can still offer good protection from influenza at the peak times.”

“In the commonwealth of Virginia, the flu season typically peaks in early January and continues through March. Getting a flu shot in January or February will help safeguard Virginia residents from the nuisance of influenza and the potentially life-threatening complications it causes,” said David Senesi, MD, MPH, epidemiologist for the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District. “Get your flu shot! Protect yourself and others!”

All persons aged six months or older should be vaccinated against influenza each year. Particular effort should be made to vaccinate people at higher risk for influenza complications, including:

Pregnant and postpartum women, or those who will be pregnant during the influenza season;

Persons over 65 years of age, including residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities;

People who have chronic lung or heart problems, including asthma; and

People who have other serious medical conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, cystic fibrosis, anemia, cancer, weak immune systems (including those with HIV) or a seizure disorder.

To help prevent the spread of influenza to people in high-risk groups, those who live with people in a high risk group and healthcare workers should also receive an annual influenza vaccine. Travelers to countries outside of the U.S. may also need to consider influenza vaccination, even at different times of the year.

Influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is a serious disease caused by the influenza virus that affects the respiratory tract. It is highly contagious and generally spreads from person-to-person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can be transmitted even before flu-like symptoms appear. A person usually becomes sick one to three days following exposure to the virus. Typical flu symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue.

Each year in the U.S. approximately 200,000 people are hospitalized due to flu illness, and flu-related deaths range from 3,000 to 49,000 each year, averaging 24,000 per year over the last three decades. The CDC reported that last season there were approximately 80,000 flu related deaths in the United States.

To minimize your risk of contracting or transmitting the flu, follow these simple steps: Get vaccinated; Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly, for at least 20 seconds; Cover your cough, either by using a disposable tissue or coughing into your sleeve, not your hand; and Stay at home when you are sick.

For more information, call the Pittsylvania-Danville Health District at 434-766-9828 or visit www.vdh.virginia.gov/epidemiology/influenza-flu-in-virginia/.

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