The Catoosa County Health Department, 145 Catoosa Circle, Ringgold, is now offering flu vaccines. Please call the health department at 706-406-2000 to schedule an appointment.

Public health experts say now is a good time for people to consider getting vaccinated for the upcoming flu season. "Get your flu vaccine as soon as it is available each year," says Karen Emard, nurse manager at the Catoosa County Health Department. "There’s plenty of it available in our community right now, including at the health department where we have the quadrivalent vaccine that provides broader protection against circulating flu viruses."

Emard says everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible. Flu season can start early, and it takes about two weeks after your vaccination for the full antibody effect to develop and provide flu protection. That’s why it’s better to get vaccinated in August, September or early October, before the flu season really kicks in.

"The flu shot will last through the flu season," Emard says. "It’s never too early to get a flu shot, as we cannot accurately predict when the influenza season will begin, but it can be too late." Flu season usually begins in October, but can begin as early as September and can last well into March. Peak flu season in Georgia usually occurs in late January and early February.

Who should get a flu vaccine? Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season. Vaccination to prevent influenza is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complication from influenza, including:

€ Children younger than five, but especially children younger than two years,

€ adults 65 years of age and older,

€ pregnant women and women up to two weeks postpartum,

€ residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and

€ people who have medical conditions including asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, etc.

It is especially important to get the flu vaccine if you, someone you live with, or someone you care for is at high risk of complications from flu.

It’s also recommended that pregnant women get a flu vaccine during any trimester of their pregnancy. There's added value to the seasonal flu vaccine for pregnant women, too. Not only does it protect them against the flu, it also protects their newborn infants, for up to the first few months of life at least, at a time when infants are too young to receive the vaccine themselves.

Catoosa County Health Department hours are Mondays through Wednesdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 6:30 pm, and Fridays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Acceptable payment methods include cash, credit-or-debit card, Medicare, Medicaid, Aetna, BlueCross BlueShield of Georgia, Cigna, and United Health Care SHBP.

Contact the Catoosa County Health Department, 145 Catoosa Circle, Ringgold, at 706-406-2000; the Environmental Health office at 706-406-2030, or visit www.nwgapublichealth.org/counties/catoosa. For more information about seasonal influenza and flu vaccines, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/index.htm.