NEW PORT RICHEY — With the prime months of the 2013-2014 influenza season just ahead, Pasco public health officials are reminding people that an annual vaccine shot is the most important step for protection against viruses.
The Pasco County Health Department already has participated in numerous community events to maximize the number of residents getting immunizations, according to Deanna Krautner, the department’s health education program manager.
At one recent event in Heritage Springs, registered nurse Pat Bunce administered flu shots for participants.
“Pat has a long history with the health department and providing flu shots in our community,” Krautner wrote in an email reply to inquiries. “Chances are if you are over 60, live in Pasco and get your yearly flu shot, you have probably gotten one from Pat.”
The cost of a flu shot through the health department amounts to $25, Krautner reports.
High dose flu for those age 65 or older costs $43. Pneumonia vaccines are also available for $74.
Customers providing proof of Medicare Part B — non-HMO — coverage may be eligible for flu and pneumonia shots at no charge to the customer. Flu vaccine for children is free.
Flu shots are available Monday through Friday at the health department office at 10841 Little Road, New Port Richey. Other locations provide flu shots Monday through Thursday.
No appointment is necessary, but residents are encouraged to call first for availability of vaccine at (727) 861-5260, ext. 268.
Many private health care providers and local, walk-in clinics provide vaccines. Many pharmacies offer low-cost flu vaccines.
To find a flu vaccine provider near you, go to http://flushot.healthmap.org and search by city or ZIP Code.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of influenza increase during the winter season and will traditionally peak during January and February.
To help stay healthy this flu season, the Florida Department of Health recommends washing hands often, preferably with soap and water. Avoid spreading germs by touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Avoid close contact with sick people. Get vaccinated every year because flu viruses change.
Symptoms of the flu that should be monitored include headache, fever, severe cough, runny nose, or muscle aches. People who are sick with flu-like illness should stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever has subsided, without the use of fever-reducing medicine, except to get medical care.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers have told the CDC they plan to produce between 135 million and 139 million doses of flu vaccine for the 2013-2014 season. From 30 million to 32 million doses will be of the quadrivalent type of vaccines, which protect against four strains of the flu virus, and the rest will be trivalent, which protect against three strains.
To learn more, go online to www.flu.gov or www.doh.state.fl.us/floridaflu.