Keeping the flu at bay

Shots, soup, soap among Panhandle residents’ strategies

KEARNEYSVILLE – Nurses at the Jefferson County Health Department are staying busy giving local residents their $15 flu shots.

[cleeng_content id="963576000" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]Though flu season typically doesn’t start until December or January, it’s the recommendation from experts with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others that everyone ages 6 months and older get vaccinated against the flu by the end of October.

“It takes about two weeks after the shot to develop the best immunity,” explains Dr. Roberta DeBiasi, a Shepherdstown resident who is the chief of the infectious diseases division at Children’s National Medical Center in D.C.

Many people don’t experience any side effects from the flu shot, not even a sore arm, explains Emily Sensel, an LPN at Jefferson County Health Department.

Many people don’t experience any side effects from the flu shot, not even a sore arm, explains Emily Sensel, an LPN at Jefferson County Health Department.

“In a typical year, we will have the peak circulating seasonal flu around Thanksgiving, but as we’ve seen in the last five years, it’s not always typical,” she said. “Sometimes it’s earlier, sometimes it’s later.”

While seasonal flu is sometimes pegged as simply an annoyance, the virus actually is nothing to sneeze it. Most people who come down with the flu feel miserable and miss work or school, and some find themselves dealing with more serious complications.

Seasonal flu is blamed for the hospitalization of 200,000 or so people nationwide each year as well as a death toll of between 3,000 and 49,000 people, the CDC says.

Flu shots are especially important for those who live with an infant too young for the flu shot or others with depressed immune systems or who can’t get vaccinated, according to the CDC.

Besides the health department at 1948 Wiltshire Road in Kearneysville where flu shots are available from 9 to 11 a.m. Monday, 1 to 3 p.m. Wednesday and on Friday from 9 to 11 a.m. and again from 1 to 3 p.m., Panhandle residents can find flu vaccines at doctor’s offices, clinics, pharmacies, on the job and even in some schools.

DeBiasi said that in addition to getting flu shots, parents should always encourage everyone in the household to wash their hands thoroughly – and often. “Definitely wash hands, wash hands and wash hands some more,” she said. “Use soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.”

What about foregoing shaking hands when out at church, work or other public settings?

DeBiasi doesn’t dismiss the idea. “Flu and respiratory viruses are transmitted best by contact,” she said. “It’s fine to not shake hands during flu season – people will understand. Give a polite bow or bump elbows instead.”

DeBiasi also has a recommendation for those who do come down with the flu: Stay home till you’re better.

“Children with fever should not be at school,” she said. “When you have fever, you are usually at your most contagious, regardless of the germ.”


Aiming to stay healthy

But some local residents see the flu shot as secondary to a health-focused lifestyle – or something they skip entirely.

Sue Pellish of Shepherdstown said she got her flu shot, but also remains a believer in the benefits of a diet filled with vegetables and other ingredients believed to boost a person’s immune response.

She makes a soup with a dozen cloves of garlic plus cauliflower florets, onions, grated ginger, spinach, organic vegetable broth and diced tomatoes.

“You saute the onions, garlic and ginger in a soup pan until soft,” she explains. “Add the cauliflower, spinach and organic broth to cover. Cook until cauliflower is soft and then add the tomatoes.”

To finish, she uses a blender to puree the vegetables in batches until her soup is smooth. She serves it with cayenne pepper or red pepper flakes with a garnish of hot chili sauce.

Her fiery concoction – she calls it “No-Flu-Sue Soup” – is not for the faint of heart, Pellish admits, but she digs into a bowl daily – and for breakfast. “The first two days my tummy was shocked,” she said. “After that, I simply had more energy. I feel great.”

For those who can’t stomach Pellish’s recipe (or work up the courage to try it), she recommends an a.m. bowl of a more traditional vegetable soup. “I believe getting those antioxidants in your system first thing in the morning is key,” she said.

Others say they’re content to try and fight the flu with regimes that include exercise, a diet of healthy foods, staying well-hydrated, getting adequate rest, appointments for acupuncture or massage therapy, and herbal treatments such as olive leaf and echinacea taken at the first sign of a flu-like ache.

Harpers Ferry resident Ronda Lehman doesn’t have the flu shot on her to-do list this year.

“I never get them because when they are manufactured they don’t know what strain will even be around,” she said. “It’s the manufacturer creating and feeding the market – it’s a racket.

“Something needs to be said for sleep, exercise, drinking water. An apple a day never hurt anyone.”

Those interested in knowing more about the flu shots available at the Jefferson County Health Department may call 304-728-8416.[/cleeng_content]


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