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Health Alert: Flu Season is Here, Vaccination Encouraged and Available

(Ithaca, N.Y., October 04, 2022) – The Tompkins County Health Department is alerting the community that Flu Season is officially here. Flu vaccines are now available at many locations throughout our community, including healthcare provider offices, pharmacies, and clinics. Everyone 6 months of age and over should be vaccinated every year against the flu. Prioritize getting your vaccine in early fall.

The flu vaccine can be given at the same time as any other vaccine you need. Specifically, the flu vaccine and any Covid-19 booster vaccine are compatible and can safely be given at the same time.

Vaccination is the best protection against getting the flu (influenza) — it protects not only you but also limits the spread of flu to your loved ones and others. The flu can make even healthy people very sick and cause serious complications in children younger than 5, pregnant women, people 65 years and older, and people with certain chronic health conditions.

Those ages 65 and over have an increased risk of severe illness, hospitalization and death from the flu virus. The CDC recommends this age group should consider receiving a high-dose or adjuvanted flu vaccine, which is considered to be more effective at eliciting a stronger immune response for older adults. However, if the high-dose or adjuvanted vaccines are not available, it is still better to be vaccinated with a standard dose, unadjuvanted vaccine than to receive no vaccine at all. For more information about the high-dose flu vaccine, refer to the CDC website.

Frank Kruppa, Public Health Director stated, “While COVID-19 is still circulating in our community, fewer preventative measures are in place this year, making it more likely that the flu will also be more present in our community, compared with the past two years. Annual vaccination is necessary to prevent the spread of flu, prevent days missed at work and school due to flu, and prevent flu-related hospitalization and death.”

“We want to do our part to limit the spread of the flu and protect our vulnerable community members. At the first sign you are getting sick, stay home, start wearing a high-quality mask and wash your hands often to prevent spreading flu to your family, friends and coworkers. Getting vaccinated against the flu is the most important step we can all take this fall,” Kruppa stated.

Many signs of flu can come on suddenly and closely resemble those of COVID-19. They include fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. Consider testing for COVID-19 with a rapid self-test or PCR. Rapid self-test kits are available for free at various locations, including local libraries and municipal centers. PCR tests remain free for Tompkins County residents at the Cayuga Health System sampling site at the Shops at Ithaca Mall (40 Catherwood Rd). Register for an appointment online or call 607-319-5708.

The signs of complications and emergency warning signs that are important to know are:

In children:

  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Bluish lips or face
  • Ribs pulling in with each breath
  • Chest and severe muscle pain
  • Dehydration
  • Fever above 104°F, or any fever at or above 100.4 in an infant less than 12 weeks of age

In adults:

  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
  • Persistent dizziness or confusion
  • Seizures

If you experience any of these warning signs, seek medical care immediately.

To get a flu shot, call your primary care provider or schedule with a local pharmacy. You can also use the Vaccine Finder to find a location near you. Schedule your COVID-19 booster along with your flu shot for additional protection this fall.

Most health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover the cost of an annual flu vaccination. If you do not have insurance or your insurance is not accepted, you can schedule an appointment at the Health Department’s Immunization Clinics, open to adults ages 18+ who are uninsured or underinsured, and for children ages 17 and under who are uninsured, underinsured, Medicaid recipients or Child Health Plus recipients. Call 607-274-6688 to schedule an appointment at our Immunization Clinics.

If you would like to learn more about health insurance options, dial 211 to speak with a Health Insurance Navigator or make an appointment online.

The Tompkins County Health Department is your partner for a healthy community. Find us online at TompkinsCountyNY.gov/health, and follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/TompkinsPublicHealth and on Twitter at @TompkinsHealth. Sign up to receive COVID-19 updates or other county announcements via email or text.

Media contact: Shannon Alvord, salvord@tompkins-co.org

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