The Mississippi State Department of Health is now offering free vaccines for the H1N1 flu, commonly known as swine flu, to Mississippians. Residents 6 months of age or older can get either the injectable vaccine or the nasal-spray vaccine free at any MSDH at any county health department. Physicians and schools are also making the vaccines available.
"It's the perfect time to get vaccinated for both types of influenza before everyone gets together for the holidays," Interim State Health Officer Dr. Mary Currier told the Hattiesburg American. "We don't know which type of flu we will see during regular flu season and we need to be prepared for both seasonal and swine flu."
In addition to the vaccines, the health department is also making swine flu antiviral medications available at no charge to Mississippians who are uninsured or underinsured and who have contracted the virus. A doctor must prescribe the medicine, and patients can have their prescriptions filled at selected pharmacies.
To date, doctors have confirmed 1,274 cases of swine flu and 13 deaths from the virus in Mississippi. Only four counties have not reported cases: Amite, Issaquena, Itawamba and Sharkey. Doctors have identified underlying health issues in most of the state's swine flu deaths, however, about 36,000 people die every year from ordinary, season flu every year in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control, and flu hospitalizes more than 200,000 people every year.
Health officials continue to advocate common-sense hygiene to avoid contracting the virus, with frequent, soap-and-water hand washing at the top of the list. Other precautions include covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, and staying home if you are sick. Anyone with flu symptomsfever, muscle aches, sore throat and nausa, for exampleshould see a doctor.
For additional information, including the location of the nearest facility providing vaccines, go to the MSDH Web site or call 1-877-222-9FLU.