October means cooler weather, shorter days and annual flu shots.
Unlike recent years when there were nationwide flu vaccine shortages or disruptions in vaccine shipments, this year there should be plenty of vaccine to go around and it should be delivered in plenty of time for distribution, health officials are saying.
"The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) doesn't expect a shortage this year, and we really encourage everyone to come out and get their flu shots," said Sheryl Tirol, spokeswoman for the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.
The health department will offer a flu shot clinic from 10 a.m. to noon Oct. 21 in Building 21 at the Douglas County 4-H Fairgrounds, 2120 Harper St.
"We will have other clinics, but this will be the first one and we'd like to have as many as possible come to this one," Tirol said. "We know some people have a hard time scheduling after work."
In years with vaccine shortages, the health department has set a priority of providing vaccines first to the elderly and people especially at risk of getting the flu because of other health problems. No priorities are being set his year, Tirol said.
Kansas University will offer multiple flu shot clinics for students, faculty, staff and retirees. During the last two years KU has experienced delays in vaccine shipments because of problems with one of the manufacturers.
"We are being told there are ample supplies and that the manufacturing went well this year," said Dr. Patricia Denning, chief of staff for KU Student Health Services. "We should have supplies in a timely fashion."
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Every year in the United States 5 percent to 20 percent of the population gets the flu. More than 200,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die from the flu. To help prevent the spread of flu: ¢ Wash your hands often. ¢ Cover coughs and sneezes. ¢ Stay home if you are sick.
Nevertheless, KU is waiting to make sure it has adequate supplies before announcing clinic times and locations, Denning said.
Statewide, there is not expected to be a shortage or delay in delivery of vaccines, said Mike Heideman, spokesman for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.
During the 2005-2006 flu season the number of flu cases in Kansas reached the "widespread" level, according to CDC. Widespread means there was an outbreak or increase in flu cases over half of the state.
A flu shot at a health department clinic will cost $16 for children up to 3 years old and $21 for people 3 and older, but no one will be denied the shots because of inability to pay. There will be no charge to people enrolled in Medicare Part B who bring their Medicare card.
KU will administer shots for those 18 and older for $15. The nasal FluMist vaccine will be available for those ages 5 to 49 for $28. FluMist will be administered by appointment at Watkins Student Health Center.
Free flu shots will be available Nov. 4 at KU Hospital in Kansas City, Kan. The hospital will conduct its 12th annual drive-through flu shot event from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. No appointment is necessary.