Fueled by media alarms, the flu season of 2012 - '13 has been so intense that the Vernon County Health Department ran out of vaccine just after Jan. 1 and is sending everyone to their doctors or to Wilkinson's Pharmacy at 105 S. Oak St., where the pharmacists are giving injections.
"September or October is the perfect time to get vaccinated, but some people got it as early as September," said health department registered nurse Jeanne Baldwin Thursday.
Explaining that the vaccine being used most often this season innoculates for both A and B Variety Influenza, Baldwin said, "The B is usually worse, but this year they are about equal."
Side effects from an injection may be a sore arm, a headache or bodily aches for a couple of days, she said. "The flu can last from two days to a week with upper respiratory distress, headaches, runny eyes and general aches," said Baldwin.
"The young, the frail and elderly and those who have immune problems, cancer or bad chronic diseases have more difficulty coping with it. The main things are to keep well-hydrated, gets lots of sleep and rest and for goodness' sake, please stay home because nobody wants it."
The nurse said the feared malady is commonly transmitted when the afflicted cough or sneeze onto others and when they neglect to wash their hands before shaking hands.
Baldwin said that most of the vaccine in use in Southwest Missouri is called Flu Zone or Flu Viron, manufactured by the Sanofi and GSK pharmaceutical companies and supplied by the VaxCare Corp. of Little Rock, Ark. "Everybody panicked when the TV stations started saying, 'We have a horrible flu season!'" she said.
"We vaccinated more than 1,000 people here for $25 each, which is what Wilkinson's and most personal physicians are charging. The statistics may bear out that there is a lot of flu and I know a lot of people are feeling poorly, but I think they have just been inundated with, 'Oh my gosh, it's here and this is what it's doing!'"
Wilkinson's pharmacy technician Chris Hewitt confirmed Thursday that the demand for vaccine has been enormous. "It's been absolutely crazy," he said.
"We have been pretty bombarded."
Hewitt said the pharmacy is giving shots on a first-come, first-served basis and you may call there at (417) 667-7802 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekdays to check the availability, although it is possible that the pharmacy could have jut a few shots left and run out before you get there. "Even we are having a hard time getting it," he said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Ga., an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has said the season began earlier than usual last year and powered into the new year. "Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a vaccine," the CDC said in a news release.
"It's especially important for some, including those who have asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease, pregnant women, people 65 years and older and those who live with or care for others who are at high risk of developing serious complications.
"CDC recommends that people get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available in their community and that vaccinations continue as long as influenza viruses are circulating. Seasons are unpredictable, beginning as early as October and with substantial activity occurring as late as May.
"It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against the flu."
An American Red Cross spokeswoman at Springfield issued a Wednesday news release indicating Missouri was not among the 41 states, including Kansas, Arkansas and Oklahoma, that had shown "widespread flu activity."
Noting that the CDC had called it "the worst outbreak in several years in the U.S.," spokeswoman Peggy Tedlock said her organization recommends covering the nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing and then throwing the tissue away.
"If a tissue isn't available, cough or sneeze into the elbow, not the hands," she said. "Wash your hands often and if soap or water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
"Avoid touching the eyes, nose and mouth, avoid close contact with people who are sick and stay home if you are sick."
Tedlock said symptoms may be fast breathing, difficulty breathing, a bluish skin color and confusion or sudden dizziness and that adults may feel chest pain or pressure.
Children's symptoms may be a fever with a rash, not having tears when they cry, having fewer wet diapers than usual and being so irritable that they don't want to be held or to interact with other kids. "When children are ill, they should never be given aspirin or products containing aspirin, especially not with the flu," she said.