COVINGTON -- Fall has finally fallen, and with the onset of cooler weather, health officials are thinking of the upcoming flu season and reminding folks to get their flu shots.
Suleima Salgado, director of public relations with the Gwinnett, Newton and Rockdale County Health Departments, said it is unknown at this time how severe the risk of contracting the flu will be this year.
"Every year is different. We don't know what to expect, but we encourage people to take their prevention and get vaccinated," she said. "This year the flu shot is available to everyone 6 months old and older and all three viruses that are known to be circulating are in the shot."
The three different flu viruses that are included are the H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season.
The health department also recommends pneumonia shots for persons over 65 years of age or anyone with a chronic illness or weakened immune system.
"This shot will help protect them against pneumonia, a serious complication of the flu," Salgado said.
The cost of a flu shot at a county health department is $20. Cash and credit cards are accepted. Health departments will also bill Medicaid, Medicare Part B and some private insurance.
Hours of operation and location of local health departments are:
Rockdale County Health Department, 985 Taylor St., Conyers, (770-785-4345); open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.
Newton County Health Department, 8203 Hazelbrand Road, Covington (770-786-9086); open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday, and from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday and Thursday. No appointment is necessary for a flu shot.
The health department recommends the following steps to reduce flu risk.
Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleanser.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Stay home when you are sick; keep sick children at home.
Do not share eating utensils, drinking glasses, towels or other personal items.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; then put used tissues in a waste container and wash your hands. If you do not have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your sleeve.