MURPHYSBORO — As flu season looms closer, the Jackson County Health Department is getting ready to not only handle the sick, but also those hoping to prevent getting sick.
Karen Brown, director of nursing at the health department, said the flu kills thousands each year and should be taken seriously, regardless of a person's age or health — vaccines are a good idea for most who are older than 6 months old, she said.
“Just because you are young doesn’t mean you won’t be one of those numbers,” she said, appealing to those who think they are young and do not need to be vaccinated against the virus.
Sarah Patrick, an administrator at the Jackson County Health Department, said after the 2009 outbreak of H1N1, which was declared a pandemic by the Center for Disease Control, people started to realize the flu could have serious affects on not just the sick and the elderly.
Brown said seeing so many young and healthy children suddenly be put on ventilators — and some later dying — was a wake-up call for some.
This year, Brown said the department has already administered a few hundred flu vaccines. She said while the baby boomers are already faithful to getting the shot, she said she would like to see more men, as well as healthy children, get vaccinated more often.
Brown and Patrick said it is less about personal health and more about community health.
“It’s not just about your health,” Patrick said, adding that a person’s decision could also affect their elderly neighbor or child. “They could die from it.”
Despite a recent anti-vaccination trend, Brown said she has not noticed much of a dip in flu shots given — they distributed between 2,500 and 3,000 last year. She said as more places have gradually started offering flu shots, this has cut in on how many they administer. However, Brown said so long as people get the shot, she doesn’t mind.
The CDC estimates that since 2010, the flu has resulted in between 140,000 and 710,000 hospitalizations each year.
Brown said as an agency they try to be as many places as they can in the community and to meet people where they are in terms of beliefs about health. She said that some do not believe in vaccinating themselves or their children, however they do want healthy children — this is an area she said both the health department and the parent can agree. From here, she said, they work to respectfully educate families about the long term effects of not receiving vaccines — be it for polio or the flu.
The simple answer to this, Brown said, would be more sick people and potentially more people dying.
According to a news release from the Jackson County Health Department, there are walk-in clinics at the Southern Illinois University Carbondale Student Recreation Center on Oct. 17 and 25 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. for state employees and their families, as well as at its Murphysbhoro office Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.