Cecilia Novella works full time, has three children, and takes classes at night. All good reasons, she says, to get a flu shot.
“I can’t afford to get sick,” said Novella, 31, one of several hundred county workers who, bracing for the coming flu season, lined up for shots Wednesday at the Orange County Employees Assn.'s Health Fair.
Although it was Novella’s first flu shot, “from her reaction, it looked like her first time ever getting any shot,” said her co-worker, Bernie Gaffaney, 22, an aide to county Supervisor Roger R. Stanton.
With three people in his house already down with influenza, Gaffaney was especially willing to pay $10 for a shot to ward off three virus strains that cause the flu--A-Texas, A-Beijing and B-Panama.
“Hopefully, the one coming around this season is one of those three,” he said.
The flu is a viral infection of the nose, throat, bronchial tubes and lungs that comes on strong between November and April, making now a prime time to get a preventive shot.
Most susceptible to the illness are people aged 60 and older, adults and children with long-term heart or lung problems, and those with chronic diseases who can die from the flu or related complications. The vaccine is also strongly recommended for teachers and health-care providers.
But at this year’s Health Fair, held near the Civic Center in Santa Ana, just about anybody who did not want to lie sick in bed this winter was getting a shot.
“It’s been two years since I had (the flu) and I don’t want to get it again,” said Elena Peralta, a secretary in the county counsel’s office, who made sure she was getting a fresh needle before she stuck out her arm for the injection.
Registered nurse Kris Richman reassured Peralta and gave her a phone number to call if she felt sick later on. Some people feel queasy after taking a flu shot, but a bad reaction is uncommon, the nurse said.
Richman, who is a nurse with the Visiting Nurse Assn. of Orange County, said most people in the line were “first timers,” a sign that flu shots are becoming increasingly popular with the young and healthy who lead busy lives and do not want to get sick.
More people are concerned about staying healthy, according to Mary Wright, immunization project coordinator for the county’s Health Care Agency.
“In the last couple of years, there has been a lot more emphasis on people getting it, because they don’t want to get sick,” she said.
Those who received a flu shot in previous years--especially high-risk individuals--should get another shot, Wright said, because the strain of virus that causes the flu changes from year to year and immunity decreases.
There is no guarantee, however, that the strain that arrives in California this year will be the one for which shots are being given.
“What happens some years is that by the time it gets over here, that’s not the strain that we thought it would be,” Wright said.
This year, the A-Beijing strain already has been identified in Louisiana, she said.
“It’s encouraging . . . because that’s what we are vaccinating against,” she said. “It shows us that we’re on the right track.”
The vaccine builds immunity to the virus about two weeks after the shot and the immunity begins to wear off after several months. One shot each season is enough for those 9 years and older, but children 8 years or younger may have to face the needle again a month after getting a first shot, health officials said.
Other than a shot, the best way to avoid catching the flu is to wash hands frequently, get a lot of sleep, and stay away from sick people--"everything your mother told you,” Wright said.
Other booths at the Health Fair, which was attended by 2,000 county workers, provided information on a variety of health-related issues, including stress, hypertension, diabetes, smoking and alcoholism.
“We ran out of 200 condoms in the first 45 minutes,” said Gerry Balcazar, a health educator with the AIDS Community Education Project. “It shows that people are open about the issue. Before, I used to have to stand away from the table for the people to come up.”
Flu Shot Locations
Free shots for those 60 and older and for adults and children with chronic medical problems that would be seriously complicated by influenza will be available from mid-October through late November at the following Health Care Agency clinics:
7342 Orangethorpe Ave. (between Beach Boulevard and Knott Avenue)
Date: Thursdays beginning Oct. 14
Time: 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
2845 Mesa Verde Drive (off of Adams Avenue, near Harbor Boulevard)
Date: Oct. 20, Nov. 3 and 17
Time: 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. (extended hours for senior citizens); 1-4 p.m.
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO
27512 Calle Arroyo
Date: Oct. 15 and 22, Nov. 12
Time: 8:30-11:30 a.m. (extended hours for senior citizens); also, Thursdays beginning Oct. 14, 1-4 p.m.
1725 W. 17th St. (between Bristol and Fairview streets)
Date: Beginning Oct. 12
Time: Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-3 p.m.
6462 Industry Way (between Bolsa Avenue and Westminster Boulevard)
Date: Oct. 19, Nov. 2 and 16
Time: 8:30-11:30 a.m. (extended hours for senior citizens); also, Tuesdays beginning Oct. 12, 12:30-4:00 p.m.
* Clinics will be closed Nov. 11 (Veterans Day) and Nov. 25-26 (Thanksgiving)
* Additional information: Visiting Nurse Assn. of Orange County, 1-800-414-SHOT. Shots administered Oct. 7-Nov. 19. Shot costs $10 for those 13 years and older; no charge to Medicare cardholders. Youths 13-18 need parental consent.
Source: Orange County Health Care Agency