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Flu season is back, but with the help of the Charles County Department of Health, local residents do not have to succumb to the sniffles and sneezes.

Free vaccinations are being offered at schools all across the county for children whose parents sign the permission slip giving the OK, health department spokesman William Leebel said.

In-school vaccinations began earlier this month and will wrap up Thursday, according to a department press release. Although he did not have an exact number of children who participated this year, Leebel said, the department has been pleased by the increasing amount of participation they have seen.

“Every year we get a higher participation rate,” Leebel said. “The parents are very happy that we provide the flu mist right there.”

The mist, Leebel said, is an alternative to the traditional injection given and is offered in the schools because it is less stressful for children, who often have anxiety about getting shots.

The nasal spray contains a dose of live but weakened flu viruses and is approved for people from ages 2 to 49. The injection contains a killed virus that is appropriate for those 6 months and older. For people older than 65, a higher dose injection is available, Leebel said.

So far this year, Leebel said, there only has been one reported case of the flu in the entire state, and it was not in Southern Maryland.

Four instances of the flu had been reported by Oct. 24, according to a report from the Maryland Independent last October. In 2011, no cases were seen until December.

“We really have no way of knowing” how severe flu season will be from year to year, Leebel said. “We want to prepare for the worst and hope for the best, and we want all residents in the county to do the same.”

After in-school flu shots end, four clinics will be at different middle and high schools in the county, as well as at the department’s White Plains office.

Between all the department’s clinics last year, Leebel said, 5,963 people were vaccinated.



Vaccination clinics scheduled

The Charles County Department of Health will have flu vaccination clinics 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Oct. 18, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Nov. 2, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Dec. 13 and 3-7 p.m. Dec. 19 at its offices, 4545 Crain Highway, White Plains.

Clinics will be held 3-7 p.m. Nov. 12 at Thomas Stone High School, 3785 Leonardtown Road, Waldorf; Nov. 14 at Piccowaxen Middle School, 12834 Rock Point Road, Newburg; and Nov. 21 at La Plata High School, 6035 Radio Station Road.

Another school clinic will be held 4-7 p.m. Nov. 19 at General Smallwood Middle School, 4990 Indian Head Highway, Indian Head.

Go to charlescountyhealth.org, or call 301-609-6900.

All vaccinations done through the health department are free.



lrenner@somdnews.com