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Flu Season Here — Shots Urged

October 22, 1918, 85 years ago this week, the great influenza epidemic was ravaging the United States and Europe. So many were dying that mass graves were being used in an effort to stop its spread.

Although there has never been another flu epidemic of that proportion in this nation, influenza still causes more than 100,000 hospitalizations and an average of 36,000 deaths annually in this country.

"These statistics demonstrate that the message still isn't getting to everyone that a simple shot can save lives," said Beth Visioli, media relation, Inova Health System.

People with chronic medical conditions such as diabetes, asthma, or heart disease, are particularly vulnerable. This also applies to the elderly and the very young. To increase awareness, Inova HealthSource is launching its eleventh annual "Fight the Flu" campaign.

"Immunizations are important to help reduce absences at work and school, as well as in decreasing the spread of the illness throughout the community," said Kristin Kazem, program manager, adult vaccinations and senior programs, Inova HealthSource. "The flu vaccine can save many healthcare dollars by keeping people healthy."

THIS YEAR, Inova HealthSource will sponsor clinics at Safeway Food and Drug Stores, Inova Health System hospitals, and other locations across Northern Virginia. The cost is $20 per flu vaccine and $25 per pneumococcal vaccine. Proceeds from the program go back to health and wellness classes provided by Inova HealthSource.

Joining in this "Fight the Flu" effort is the Alexandria Health Department. Beginning this month and until further notice, the City Health Department will offer flu shots to city resident 18 years and older.

During October, it will be available on a walk-in basis on Tuesdays only from 9 to 11 a.m. an the Immunization Clinic, 517 N. St. Asaph Street. In November and December, the vaccine will be available on Thursdays, during the same hours at the same location.

"Those who wish to avoid getting the flu, and especially those at high-risk of complications, should get their flu shot at this time," said Dr. Charles Konigsberg, Jr, Alexandria Health Director.

Cost of the shot administered by the City Health Department is $15. However, the department no longer accepts Medicare or insurance billing, according to Konigsberg. Patients utilizing Medicare or private insurance are advised to see their own doctor or utilize organizations that accept those payment plans.

The flu season may begin anytime between November and March.

Typically, it does not peak before January, according to statistics. The vaccine takes about two weeks to become effective after injection, according to officials.

GET SHOTS

City of Alexandria

10/31/03 - Noon to 3 p.m.

Inova Alexandria Hospital

4320 Seminary Road

11/01/03 - 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Bradlee Safeway

3526 King St.

11/04/03 - 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Seminary Plaza Safeway

4604 Kenmore Avenue

11/05/03 - 9 a.m. to Noon

Chinquapin Park Recreational Center

3210 King St.

Mount Vernon Area

10/27/03 - 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

Mount Vernon Recreation Center

2017 Belle View Road

10/28/03 - 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Belle View Safeway

1624 Belle View Blvd.

10/29/03 - 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Inova Mount Vernon Hospital

2501 Parker's Lane

10/29/03 - 9:30 a.m. to Noon

Groveton Senior Center

8350 Richmond Highway

Suite 325

Additional information is available at the following web sites: www.cdc.gov/nip/flu and/or www.inova.org and click on "Fight the Flu." Inova also has a hot line at 877-895-5284.