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Flu Season's Here. Got Your Shot?

Flu (influenza) season is here.

The peak period to catch the flu in the U.S. runs from today (Oct. 1, 2008) through mid-May, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), which yesterday (Sept. 30, 2008) urged all women – including those who are pregnant – to be vaccinated against the illness.

Coincidentally, flu vaccination clinics open to the public are scheduled at four Lower Pottsgrove (PA) Township and Sanatoga locations this month:

  • Oct. 7, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at CVS Pharmacy, 1833 E. High St.;
  • Oct. 8, from 2-6 p.m., for all ages, at the pharmacy in K-Mart, 2200 E. High St.;
  • Oct. 10, from 3-6 p.m., for all ages, at the Visiting Nurse Association of Pottstown and Vicinity, 1963 E. High St.; and
  • Oct. 28, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., at Redner’s Warehouse Market, 1300 N. Charlotte St.

A second VNA clinic has also been scheduled in Sanatoga for Nov. 10. Specific payment and insurance limitations apply at VNA clinics; call the agency for details at 610-327-5700. A brochure on VNA clinics scheduled in Berks County is available for download.

Costs for flu shots range between $25 and $30, depending on location. In some locations, pneumonia shots also are offered at a cost of between $40 and $50.

Flu vaccinations should be a routine part of prenatal care, the ACOG contends, and says the best time for pregnant women to get a flu shot is during October or November. Yet findings from a recent survey conducted by the National Women’s Health Resource Center found that flu vaccine is “bottom-of-mind” for most women when they consider own prenatal health, Reuters News Service reported.

In addition to pregnant women, Reuters said, other special “high-risk” groups that should be vaccinated annually include people older than 50; people of any age who have diabetes, asthma, heart disease, a weakened immune system, or other chronic illnesses, and their caregivers; nursing home residents; health care workers; and household contacts and caregivers of children younger than five and of adults age 50 and older.

In related news, the Associated Press yesterday reported the federal government approved a genetic test that allows new flu strains to be identified within a few hours. “The timesaving test could be crucial if a deadly new strain emerges,” the AP said, because current tests take three to four days for results.

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