The Hamilton County Health Department has a limited supply of flu vaccine available. Due to the shortage of the vaccine, the state has issued a Public Health Advisory establishing priorities for distribution and use of influenza vaccine to persons in high risk categories.

Influenza, commonly called the "flu," is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the influenza virus. Those high risk individuals in need of a flu shot should contact the health department for information about how the vaccines will be dispersed. At-risk individuals who should receive a flu shot include infants ages 6-23 months, children ages 2-18 years who are on aspirin therapy, elderly persons ages 65 and older, healthcare workers and residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and anyone with long-term health problems (such as heart disease, kidney disease, lung disease, diabetes, or a weakened immune system).

High risk individuals can be vaccinated for pneumonia, an infection often contracted after the body is weakened from the flu. To obtain a pneumonia vaccine, patients should contact their primary healthcare provider. In addition, local county health departments, nursing homes and hospitals administer the pneumonia vaccine.

In addition to vaccination, the probability of contracting respiratory infections can be reduced by following a few simple steps:

1. Clean hands often with soap and water, or an alcohol-based hand cleanser.

2. Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth.

3. Stay home when during an illness and keep sick children home.

4. Avoid close contact with people who are ill, if possible.

5. Do not share eating utensils, drinking glasses, towels or other personal items.

6. Use a tissue to cover the nose and mouth during a cough or sneeze.

For more information about vaccine distribution, contact the Hamilton County Health department at 792-1414. The vaccination is free to Medicare patients and $15 to the general public.

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