William Green grimaces while receiving a flu vaccination in late 2006 at the Centennial Mall. In early 2008, the Visiting Nurse Association has several dates for flu vaccinations.

File photo

William Green grimaces while receiving a flu vaccination in late 2006 at the Centennial Mall. In early 2008, the Visiting Nurse Association has several dates for flu vaccinations.

Immunizations may prevent influenza

If you go

What: Influenza clinic

When: 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday, 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Jan. 10, 10 to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 16, 10 to 11:30 a.m. Jan. 22

Where: Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association office, 745 Russell St.

Cost: $22 for adults, $14 for children

• For more information, contact 871-7684

— It's not too late to vaccinate, local and national health officials said.

As the flu season approaches its peak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourage influenza vaccinations as a preventative measure against the respiratory virus.

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association has followed suit, scheduling immunization clinics at its Craig office.

The clinics come before the virus is typically most prevalent.

"Influenza activity in the U.S. has been low so far this season, but it is increasing," the CDC Web site reported. "Flu activity typically does not reach its peak in the U.S. until January or February, making this a good time to get a flu vaccine."

On average, 5 to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu annually, the CDC Web site reported.

More than 200,000 of those individuals are hospitalized for flu complications and approximately 36,000 people die flu-related deaths.

"The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year," according to the Web site.

Still, because of the virus's nature, a vaccination does not always guarantee its recipient immunity.

Influenza is communicable between humans and animals, said Beka Warren, The Memorial Hospital chief quality officer.

Each year, the virus makes a global movement from west to east, often passing through multiple species.

The virus changes with each species it infects, causing it to mutate and develop into different strains, Warren said.

Current immunizations vaccinate against the three latest influenza strains. Other virus strains can develop, causing sickness in immunized individuals.

Still, "immunizations are very effective," Warren said. "It can still make flu (symptoms) less severe."

Hospitalizations and deaths are usually caused by the flu symptoms, not the influenza virus itself.

Children and the elderly are at higher risk for flu-related complications, Warren said, adding, "parents need to watch their children" for signs of dehydration and other flu side effects.

Other preventative measures, including hand washing and avoiding hand contact with the face, can also help keep influenza at bay, she said.

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