A flu shot is the best way to protect against the flu, and 1,325 north Georgians recently protected themselves quickly and conveniently at Drive-thru Flu Shot Clinics held by Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield county health departments.

Conducted each fall in the North Georgia Health District since 2007, all six county Drive-thru Flu Shot Clinics were this month.

Residents drove in and remained in their vehicles to receive a quadrivalent flu shot that protects against four strains of flu. People 65 and older could receive a high dose flu shot containing four times the protective antigen, which is needed as the immune system weakens with age.

The Drive-thru Flu Shot Clinics also let county health departments and partnering agencies test local plans to rapidly administer vaccine or medication during a public health crisis. Participating community partners include local law enforcement, Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs), businesses and first responders such as the county Emergency Management Agency, Emergency Medical Services and fire departments.

Beginning at this time of year through spring, influenza viruses circulate at higher levels in the U.S., so a well-timed flu shot reduces the chances of getting seasonal flu and spreading it to others. When more people are vaccinated, less flu spreads through communities.

In addition to a flu shot, other actions to prevent the spread of flu include:

• Washing hands often with soap and warm water, if available -- if not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, then disposing of the tissue.

• Avoiding touching the eyes, nose and mouth -- germs spread this way.

• Avoiding close contact with sick people.

• Cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

• Staying home if experiencing flu-like symptoms -- fever, cough, sore throat, body aches, runny nose, fatigue or vomiting and/or diarrhea. Remain home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the aid of medication to keep from infecting others.

For more information about influenza, go to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/flu. To contact a county health department in the North Georgia Health District for a flu shot and other services, or to find the nearest health department location, go to www.nghd.org and click the Locations tab.

Of the 1,325 residents vaccinated this year at the Drive-thru Flu Shot Clinics in north Georgia, the county health departments provided the following numbers of vaccine:

• Cherokee County: 172

• Fannin County: 150

• Gilmer County: 80

• Murray County: 180

• Pickens County: 93

• Whitfield County: 650

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