Community, Healthcare, Latest News

Have a healthy holiday season

What’s on your holiday to-do list? Shopping? Meal planning? Decorations?

How about a flu vaccine?

Monongalia County Health Department recommends getting a flu shot no later than late October or early November, so that the inoculation will reach full effectiveness before families and friends gather together for Thanksgiving.

But we also have a saying, “It’s never too late to get a flu vaccine.”

That’s because, in West Virginia, we often see cases of influenza well into spring.

So while we advertise that October is the sweet spot — not too early so as not to lose effectiveness too soon — we also want to remind individuals that if you haven’t gotten one yet, early December is a great time as well.

That’s because winter will be here in just over two weeks and then shortly after that, many families will be gathering for the end-of-year holidays.

And while you’re at it, considering the upcoming seasons and the new omicron variant of COVID-19, it’s time to go over other measures everyonecan take to keep themselves, their families and their communities safe.

I’m talking about that good old original health practice, hand-washing.

Coincidentally, early December has been designated as a time for hand-washing and flu vaccine observance weeks.

National Hand-washing Awareness Week started  Wednesday and lasts through Tuesday. And today marks the beginning of National Influenza Vaccination Week.

Let’s start with hand-washing. Everybody knows the drill, right? Soap, water, friction, 20 seconds, thorough scrubbing, including under the nails. Maybe sing the chorus of your favorite song to measure the time.

Of course, it sounds simple, but hand-washing as a vital part of infection control didn’t reach American hospitals until the mid-19th century. Ignaz Semmelweis served as house officer in one of two obstetric clinics at a Vienna, Austria, hospital starting in 1847.

He observed that maternal mortality rates were much higher in one clinic and saw that doctors and medical students often delivered babies directly after performing autopsies without washing up first.

Once the process of “scrubbing in” had been established, maternal mortality plummeted dramatically.

Hand-washing not only helps decrease the spread of viruses such as influenza and COVID-19, but also illnesses such as hepatitis A, which travels via the “fecal route” when individuals prepare food or eat food prepared by someone without thorough hand-washing.

Please keep that in mind when you see a sign in a bathroom encouraging, and sometimes mandating, this very practice.

As for a flu vaccine, everyone 6 months and older should get one. It’s especially important for older individuals and those with compromised immune systems.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu vaccines prompt antibodies to develop about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with circulating influenza viruses.

Research indicates which strains will be most prevalent in the upcoming season. All flu vaccines in the United States are quadrivalent vaccines, which means they protect against four  flu viruses: two influenza A strains, H1N1 and H3N2, and two influenza B viruses.

Some years, the flu vaccines are a better match for the circulating strains than others. But, just like the COVID-19 vaccine, even if vaccinated individuals get sick, the inoculation usually means symptoms are more manageable than for those who forego the shot.

Monongalia County Health Department can only advise that everyone wash their hands thoroughly and often. But we can actually help with the vaccines.

To make an appointment for a flu vaccine, call MCHD Clinical Services at 304-598-5119.

If you still need a COVID vaccine or a booster, you can make that appointment online at our website,, by clicking on the top button.

And have a happy and especially healthy holiday season.

Email Mary Wade Burnside at