This is a community announcement from the Tompkins County Health Department. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit news releases, email tips@ithacavoice.com.

TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y.—Now is the time to get a flu shot, and it is more important than ever during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Flu vaccines are now available at many locations throughout our community, including health care provider offices, pharmacies, and clinics. Everyone 6 months of age and over should be vaccinated every year against the flu. Prioritize getting your vaccine in September or October. 

Vaccination is the best protection against getting the flu (influenza) — it protects not only you but also limits the spread of flu to your loved ones and others. The flu can make even healthy people very sick and cause serious complications in children younger than 5, pregnant women, people 65 years and older, and people with certain chronic health conditions. 

Frank Kruppa, Public Health Director stated, “Last year, flu activity was unusually low everywhere. Some of the explanation for this can be attributed to the COVID-19 precautions that were put in place: masks, distance, staying home, handwashing, reduced travel. Now, with COVID-19 still circulating in our community, fewer precautions in place, and increased global travel, we want to once again do our part to limit flu. No one wants to become sick and worry about whether or not they have COVID, and therefore need to be tested or risk spreading the disease. We want people to avoid getting the flu altogether.” 

“Additionally, if you get the flu, it may be more difficult for your body to fight off COVID-19. The flu vaccine reduces the severity of flu illness and the number of visits to the doctor’s office. It prevents days missed at work and school due to flu and prevents flu-related hospitalization and death,” Kruppa stated. 

Many signs of flu can come on suddenly and closely resemble those of COVID-19. They include fever, cough, sore throat, and muscle aches. The signs of complications and emergency warning signs that are important to know are: 

In children: 

·        Fast breathing or trouble breathing 

·        Bluish lips or face 

·        Ribs pulling in with each breath 

·        Chest and severe muscle pain 

·        Dehydration 

·        Fever above 104°F, or any fever in an infant less than 12 weeks of age 

In adults: 

·        Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath 

·        Persistent pain or pressure in the chest 

·        Persistent dizziness or confusion 

·        Seizures 

If you experience any of these warning signs, seek medical care immediately. Flu symptoms are fully described on this CDC website and COVID-19 symptoms on the NYS Department of Health website

To get a flu shot, call your primary care provider, 2-1-1, or check with your pharmacy. You can also use the Vaccine Finder to find a location near you. At this time, the Health Department is not scheduling flu shots or other immunizations at our clinic. 

Most health insurance plans, including Medicare and Medicaid, cover the cost of an annual flu vaccination. Children may qualify for a free vaccine through the federal Vaccines for Children program. If you do not have insurance or your insurance is not accepted, you may need to pay the cost at the time of appointment. Call 211 to speak with a Health Insurance Navigator, or make an appointment online