CARTERSVILLE, GA: The Bartow County Health Department, 100 Zena Drive, Cartersville, will offer free flu shots to individuals 19 years and older from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., each day at a series of drive-thru immunization clinics set for November 10, 17, and 24, at the Zena Senior Center, 102 Zena Drive, next door to the health department.
“Persons younger than 19, or anyone not wishing to take advantage of the free flu shots at our three Tuesday drive-thru clinics, may get a flu shot by either walking in at the health department during regular business hours Monday through Friday or by calling 770-382-1920 to schedule an appointment,” says Cyndi Carter, nurse manager at the Bartow County Health Department.
The health department has the quadrivalent vaccine, which provides broader protection against circulating flu viruses, according to Carter.
“Everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine. The flu shot will last through the flu season. It’s never too early to get a flu shot, as we cannot accurately predict when the influenza season will begin, but it can be too late.”
“This flu season is going to be more challenging than ever due to the added risk of COVID-19 in our community,” says Carter. “Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses.”
“It is possible for a person to get both the COVID-19 virus and the influenza virus at the same time or back-to-back,” says Carter. “You can protect yourself and others from influenza by getting the flu vaccine early this year, wearing a mask, practicing safe physical distancing, washing hands frequently, and staying home if you are sick with any kind of symptoms.”
“It’s more important than ever to get vaccinated,” Carter says. “The COVID-19 pandemic has caused shortages of hospital beds, ICU beds, and ventilators even outside of flu season. During flu season, when both the flu and COVID-19 will be circulating, hospitals may again face shortages, limiting their ability to care for people who are seriously ill with the flu, COVID-19, or both.”
Flu season usually begins in October but can begin as early as September and last well into March. Peak flu season in Georgia usually occurs in late January and early February.
Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complication from influenza, including:
- Children younger than five, but especially children younger than two years,
- adults 65 years of age and older,
- pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum,
- residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and
- people who have medical conditions including asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, etc.
It is especially important to get the flu vaccine if you, someone you live with, or someone you care for is at high risk of complications from flu.
It is also recommended that pregnant women get a flu vaccine during any trimester of their pregnancy. Not only does it protect them against the flu, it also protects their newborn infants, for up to the first few months of life at least, at a time when infants are too young to receive the vaccine themselves.
The flu vaccine will not prevent COVID-19. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID are similar, it may be hard to tell them apart based on symptoms alone. You may need a test to confirm a diagnosis.
According to the CDC, common symptoms shared by COVID and the flu include:
- Fever or feeling feverish/chills
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle pain of body aches
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
- COVID may include a change in or loss of taste and smell.
Additional similarities include:
- Both COVID and flu spread from person-to-person by respiratory droplets produced when talking, coughing, or sneezing.
- Close physical contact (e.g., shaking hands)
- Touching a contaminated surface can transfer the virus.
- Pre-symptomatic and asymptomatic people are infectious to others.
For these reasons, wearing a mask and safe physical distancing will reduce the risk not only of spreading either virus but also of contracting either virus. Other important prevention tools include frequent handwashing and sanitizing, frequent cleaning of common touch surfaces, and staying at home if you are experiencing any of these symptoms.
A more complete list of similarities and differences between COVID and the flu can be found on this CDC website.
This flu season, if you need to see a healthcare provider for any symptoms, call their office first before showing up to ask about COVID protocols.
Contact the Bartow County Health Department, 100 Zena Drive SE, Cartersville, at 770-382-1920; the Environmental Health office at 770-387-2614.
Bartow County Health Department hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday 8 am to 5 pm, Tuesday 8 am to 6:30 pm, and Friday 8 am to 2 pm.