Flu season begins with free vaccine clinics

Tuesday, Oct. 8, DPH will also hold a free drive-thru flu clinic at the DelDOT Administration Building, located at 800 S. Bay Road in Dover, from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., or until vaccines run out. (Delaware State News/Mike Finney)

DOVER — Flu season has begun, and local health officials are preparing for battle.

Delaware’s Division of Public Health is gearing up for the season with free flu clinics across the state.

“The Division of Public Health’s mission is to protect the health of all Delaware citizens. Our goal is to ensure as many Delawareans as possible receive the flu shot through various venues (physician offices, pharmacies, etc.), while we focus on serving individuals who are under-insured or uninsured through our public health clinics located within state service centers throughout the state,” Jen Brestel, DPH media relations/FOIA coordinator, said.

State funds are appropriated each year to purchase flu and other vaccines distributed at state service centers, she explained.

“The two larger DPH flu clinics (being held Oct. 4 in Wilmington and Oct. 8 in Dover) also serve as preparedness exercises, allowing DPH staff to assess their readiness and capacity to mass vaccinate the public in the event of a large-scale health emergency. Vaccines for these events are funded by the federal government through the section 317 vaccine program,” Ms. Brestel said.

The first of two larger free flu clinics of the year will be held Friday, Oct. 4 at the Porter State Service Center in Wilmington, located at 511 W. 8th St., from 10 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. The first 200 people to get their flu vaccines will receive a free gift card, according to DPH.

Tuesday, Oct. 8, DPH will also hold a free drive-thru flu clinic at the DelDOT Administration Building, located at 800 S. Bay Road in Dover, from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., or until vaccines run out. Eagle 97.7 and Cool 101.3 will hold live broadcasts during that time, according to DPH. Clinics, open to individuals 9 years of age and older, are rain or shine events.

Families with younger children are encouraged by DPH to visit a physician’s office, local pharmacy or other locations with flu shots to get the proper vaccination for their child. More information for families with young children can be found online at https://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/fluclinics.html under a section titled “Statewide locations for children ages 6 months to 18 years.”

“Now is the time to get your annual flu shot,” said Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a practicing family physician. “Vaccinations not only prevent people from getting the flu, but they also can reduce the severity of flu illness and prevent visits to the doctor, clinic, emergency room and hospitalizations. Vaccinated people have less chance of missing family, school and work events due to influenza illness.”

DPH recommends flu shots for everyone six months of age and older. Vaccines take about two weeks for the antibodies that protect against the influenza virus infection to develop, the department explained in a press release, adding that it is important to get vaccinated as early as possible to build immunity.

“The flu is unpredictable,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl Rattay. “Getting your annual flu vaccine is the best, most effective thing you can do to keep from getting the flu, and from spreading it to family, friends, neighbors and co-workers. The flu is highly contagious and can even be deadly, so we urge you to get your flu shot early in the flu season.”

During the 2018-2019 flu season, Delaware recorded 6,387 laboratory-confirmed flu cases, more than 1,000 Delawareans were hospitalized due to the flu and 24 people died from flu complications, according to DPH.

Nationwide, flu-related deaths alone reached an estimated 36,400 to 61,200, Bayhealth added in a press release. To combat the issue, Bayhealth offers free flu vaccinations to its employees, contractors, volunteers and medical staff in hopes of getting ahead of the season.

Beebe Healthcare officials said the impact of flu season adds increase pressure on local physicians and hospitals, stating that it’s not unusual to see an increase in patient volume during flu season.

“Staying informed and educating the healthcare teams is a necessary task to ensure that flu season does not overwhelm our healthcare institution and the community. With Beebe’s strong policies and practices in place, it ensures that the spread of the flu once identified will spread no further than the affected party,” Beebe’s Public Relations Content Coordinator Ryan Marshall said.

Beebe Healthcare holds regular free flu vaccine clinics every Monday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. through Nov. 18 at its Lighthouse Plaza location in the conference room adjacent to Beebe Physical Rehabilitation Services. They also provide free health screenings and other options at events throughout Sussex County.

DPH will also offer other flu clinics throughout the season. A schedule can be found at https://dhss.delaware.gov/dhss/dph/fluclinics.html. In addition, flu vaccines are offered through physician offices, many pharmacies and some grocery stores. To locate where flu vaccines near you are being offered, Google “CDC flu finder” and enter a ZIP code.

More information from DPH

In addition to getting an annual flu shot, Delawareans can prevent the spread of the flu and other respiratory illness with good hygiene: Wash hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizers, cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and dispose of tissues immediately. If a tissue is not available, cough or sneeze into your inner elbow. Droplets from a sneeze can travel up to six feet. Also avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Keep your distance from people who are coughing or sneezing.

Flu symptoms come on suddenly, and include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and body aches, chills and fatigue. Some people get complications including pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections. Those sick with the flu should stay home from work, school and other gatherings and not return until they have been free of fever – with temperature less than 100 degrees F (37.8 degrees C), without the use of fever-reducing medications – for at least 24 hours.

People with flu symptoms should avoid close contact with well people in the household and stay well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other clear liquids. Over-the-counter medicines can provide symptom relief, but if you suspect you have influenza, call your doctor as they may decide to provide antiviral medications to help hasten recovery and prevent serious complications. This is particularly important for those who feel very sick, are pregnant or have chronic medical conditions.

For more information about the flu and where to get vaccinated, visit flu.delaware.gov or call 1-800-282-8672.

More flu clinics through Beebe Healthcare

• Oct. 5, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. Rabbit’s Ferry Center, 19112 Robinsonville Road, Lewes

• Oct. 8, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m. Sussex County YMCA, 20080 Church Street, Rehoboth Beach

• Oct. 9, 1:30 – 6 p.m. Camp Rehoboth, 37 Baltimore Avenue, Rehoboth Beach

• Oct. 9, 3 – 6 p.m. Beebe Lab Express – Georgetown, 21635 Biden Avenue, Georgetown

• Oct. 10, 2 – 5 p.m. Beebe Lab Express – Millsboro, 28538 Dupont Blvd., Millsboro

• Oct. 13, 9 a.m. – 3 p.m. Epworth Church, 19285 Holland Glade Road, Rehoboth Beach

• Oct. 18, 8 – 10 a.m. Rehoboth Beach Fire Department, East Bay, 219 Rehoboth Avenue, Rehoboth Beach

• Oct. 20, 8:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. Lewes Presbyterian Church, 133 King’s Hwy., Lewes

• Oct. 23, 12 – 3 p.m. Advanced Care Clinic Long Neck, 32060 Long Neck Road, Millsboro

• Oct. 24, 1 – 4 p.m. Beebe Lab Express – Milton, 614 Mulberry Street, Milton

• Oct. 26, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. St. Jude’s Catholic Church, 152 Tulip Drive, Lewes

• Oct. 26, 12 – 3 p.m. Beebe Lab Express – Rehoboth Health Campus, 18941 John J. Williams Hwy., Rehoboth Beach

• Oct. 29, 4 – 7 p.m. Ocean View VFW, Mason Dixon Post 7234, 29265 Marshy Hope Way, Ocean View

Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at jantonik@newszap.com

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