Flu season is nothing to sneeze at.

Seriously, with school back in session an outbreak of the dreaded flu can't be very far off. To combat the problem, the Phillips County Health Unit will offer flu vaccinations at the Second Baptist Church at 302 Baldwin in Helena-West Helena on Friday, Sept. 29 from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Flu season is nothing to sneeze at.

Seriously, with school back in session an outbreak of the dreaded flu can't be very far off. To combat the problem, the Phillips County Health Unit will offer flu vaccinations at the Second Baptist Church at 302 Baldwin in Helena-West Helena on Friday, Sept. 29 from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Arkansas Department of Health officials report that those wishing to be inoculated against the flu bug should bring their insurance cards to the flu vaccine clinic with them. For those who do not have insurance, or if the insurance will not cover the flu shot, the vaccine will be administered at no charge.

“We want Phillips County residents to stay healthy this flu season, and getting a yearly flu vaccination is the best line of protection,” said Karen Hopper, Phillips County Health Unit administrator. “We encourage everyone to come to the mass flu vaccine clinic or the local health unit to get their flu shot.”

ADH officials say that the flu virus changes from year to year. This year's vaccine will protect against the flu viruses that are expected to cause the most illness this coming flu season.

New observations concerning the flu vaccine continue to be made. Experts still recommend annual flu shots for children and adults.

“The flu should not be taken lightly,” stated Dr. Dirk Haselow, ADH epidemiologist. “We are encouraging everyone to get a flu shot to protect themselves and their families, because it is difficult to predict in advance just how severe the flu season is going to be.”

All ages can come down with the flu. Some are more likely to have serious health problems if they get the flu. This group includes: older adults, young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), smokers and people residing in nursing homes.

The ADH strongly recommends that the people in the above categories get a flu vaccine. Friends, family members and people who provide care to people included in those groups should also get the vaccine – not only to protect themselves but to decrease the possibility of exposing someone they love or care for to the flu.

ADH officials assure the public that the flu vaccine is safe and stress that it does not cause the flu.

Some people who receive the shot may have a mild soreness and redness near the site of the shot and possibly even a low fever or slight headache.

According to the ADH, there are very few medical reasons to avoid the flu vaccine. These, they say, include life-threatening allergic reactions to a previous dose of the vaccine or an ingredient in the vaccine itself. People with allergies to vaccine ingredients can frequently be administered the vaccine safely, when given in a doctor's office where they can be monitored.

The flu spreads easily and rapidly by coughing and sneezing or by touching something, such as a door knob, with the virus on it and then touching the nose or mouth.

Doctors say good hand washing habits are essential in helping avoid the spread of the flu. Still, they say the best way to prevent and avoid the flu altogether is to get the flu vaccine.

For additional information, go to www.healthy.arkansas.gov or www.flu.gov.