Area residents can prepare for the flu season by receiving their vaccines at one of the Columbia County Health Department's flu clinics being held throughout the county in September and October.
The first flu clinic will be from 8 a.m. until 7 p.m. Sept. 21, at the Appling, Evans and Grovetown health departments.
"An increase in flu is predicted, and it's very important to go ahead and get the seasonal flu (vaccine) to prevent that," said Linda Graves, the county's nurse manager.
Other clinics will be held at the Columbia County Library, Evans Government Complex auditorium and each of the county's middle schools. No appointments are necessary.
The flu shot is available to ages 6 months and older. The vaccine has a few mild side effects, including soreness or redness at the injection site, a low-grade fever, hoarseness and possible achiness, Graves said.
An option to the shot is FluMist, a nasal spray. Because the vaccine is composed of a weakened virus, certain people shouldn't receive it, Graves said, adding that patients should ask their health provider if they're eligible.
Graves said she doesn't expect any vaccine shortages.
"We do expect a high turnout this year," she said. "Hopefully, they'll utilize all the different centers we have in the community."
The flu shot costs $25, while the FluMist vaccine costs $30. Medicaid and Medicare payments are accepted, in addition to cash and checks.
The Evans Health Department also will offer a walk-in clinic from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sept. 25 and every Friday in October.
While getting one's flu shot is very important, Graves said there are many other precautionary measures that can be taken to protect against the flu.
She encourages people to cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, wash their hands frequently, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth.
"Just try and avoid people who are sick," Graves added.
For information about the time and place of the county's flu clinics, call the Columbia County Health Department at (706) 868-3330.
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