Hollywood, MD – The season of giving is upon us. If you and those around aren’t cautious, there’s a possibility you could be on the giving or receiving end of a gift nobody wants. Appropriately, the week of Dec. 7 through 13 is National Influenza Awareness Week in America.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the country experiences “epidemics” of seasonal influenza (the flu) every year. Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as the month of May. Statistics show the greatest number of flu cases occur in January and February. In an average year, national health officials identify influenza as the eighth-leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming between 20,000 and 30,000 lives. The flu also leads to approximately 750,000 hospitalizations nationwide during an average year.

Pharmacists and physicians at the Philip J. Bean Medical Center in Hollywood are providing flu shots. The pharmacy is located on the first floor of the medical center at 24035 Three Notch Road. They may be contacted at 240-309-4062 and more information is available on their web site at www.pjbpharmacy.com.

Southern Maryland’s local jurisdictions have been taking action to vaccinate as many residents as possible before the flu gets a firm grip on the population.

During his recent semi-annual report, Calvert County Health Officer Dr. Laurence Polsky said that vaccinations prevent hospitalizations and help cut down on workplace absenteeism. The CDC estimates that during the 2012 – 2013 flu season, vaccinations resulted in 79,000 fewer hospitalizations that otherwise would have occurred. According to the CDC, by preventing hospitalizations, flu immunizations can save $80 per year, per person vaccinated.

In Charles County, flu vaccination clinics started back in October with the injectable vaccine given to seniors and caregivers at the county’s Department of Health in White Plains. Flu immunizations were also conducted at all of the county’s elementary schools that month.

“We have a very robust flu vaccination program in Charles County,” said Charles County Department of Health Public Information Officer William Leebel stated. “It is something we have always done at no cost to residents. The department schedules 10 community clinics and conducts clinics in all 21 county elementary schools. We also vaccinate county government and school staff. All Department of Health employees are required to be vaccinated.”

“It’s important for everyone to get immunized against the flu,” Charles County Health Officer Dr. Dianna Abney stated. “It is important to be considerate of infants and the elderly whose health may be fragile.”

Back in late September, the St. Mary’s County Health Department provided free FluMist© vaccinations to eligible school children at the county fair on a first-come, first serve basis.

Calvert County health officials will be conducting school flu immunizations over the next two weeks. Flu vaccines at the Calvert County Health Department are available through March on Tuesdays only from 8:30 to 11 a.m. The charge is $20 for all seasonal vaccinations.

According to information posted on the St. Mary’s County Health Department website, Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination.

Charles County health officials note that there are individuals who should talk to a doctor before getting a flu shot—anyone allergic to eggs or ingredients of the vaccine, anyone who suffers from Guillan-Barre syndrome and anyone who is not feeling well on the day he or she intends to receive the shot.

As for the fear that a healthy person could have a bad reaction to a flu shot, Polsky stated, “your chance of dying from the flu is 50 to 100 times greater than your chance of having a severe reaction to the vaccine.”

“To date we have vaccinated over 6,000 residents,” said Leebel, who noted Charles County has one more clinic scheduled for Dec. 17. “We have plenty of regular injectible vaccine, FluMist vaccine and high dosage vaccine for seniors.”

For more information on the flu and obtaining flu shots visit the Charles County Health Department website at www.charlescountyhealth.org the St. Mary’s County Health Department at www.smchd.org or the Calvert County Health Department at www.calverthealth.org

Contact Marty Madden at marty.madden@thebaynet.com