Although the local area and Santa Rosa County at large reflect “low levels” of influenza, more commonly referred to as “flu,” so far this year, Health Department officials insists it is no time to suspend pro-active measures to prevent it from catching anyone off guard.

Flu is a highly dangerous disease that can kill. In fact an average of 36,000 die from flu complications each year in this country and 114,000 necessarily have to be hospitalized as a result of the flu infection according to county health department officials.

The flu is a respiratory disease caused by a variety of flu viruses. And although it is a “catch-all” term commonly used to describe a number of ailments, it correctly applies only lto the upper respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus.

It is not selective in its attack on persons either. Anyone can get it, even healthy people, and serious problems from the virus can happen at any age. And according to Ms. Mary M. Beverly, “People age 65 years and older, people of any age with chronic medical conditions, and very young children are more likely to get complications from influenza.

The fall and winter months from October to March are times when the disease is most prevalent, with the winter months more likely for its attacks.

The most pro-active measure to prevent the disease is to get vaccinated. Flu shots are commonly available in a number of places, including health departments, drug stores, and sometimes even by a private source in a drive-in environment.

The flu shot is available at the Santa Rosa County Health Department for adults and children. Adult shots are priced at $20 each while children are vaccinated free.

There are two types of vaccines:

The “flu shot” — an inactivated vaccine (containing killed virus) that is given with a needle, usually in the arm. The flu shot is approved for use in people older than 6 months, including healthy people and people with chronic medical conditions.

There are three different flu shots available:

The nasal-spray flu vaccine — a vaccine made with live, weakened flu viruses that is given as a nasal spray (sometimes called LAIV for “Live Attenuated Influenza Vaccine”). The viruses in the nasal spray vaccine do not cause the flu. LAIV is approved for use in healthy* people 2 through 49 years of age who are not pregnant.