The Pennsylvania Department of Health will mark National Influenza Immunization Week by offering free public influenza vaccination clinics on Dec. 9, 10, and 11 in communities statewide.

Carbon County residents can register to receive a flu vaccine at the Department of Health's Jim Thorpe site, located at 616 North St. The office will hold the three-day clinic from 2 to 7 p.m., Dec 9; 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., Dec. 10; and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Dec. 11. Registration is required for vaccines.

"Pennsylvania had a great opportunity to receive additional influenza vaccine," said acting Secretary of Health Michael Huff. "We decided to take advantage of this opportunity and hold statewide clinics to vaccinate individuals who have not yet been immunized for influenza. Vaccination is one of the best ways for individuals to protect themselves and their loved ones against the flu."

Thus far, flu cases seen in Pennsylvania consist of two strains: A/H3N2, a strain that disproportionately impacts older adults; and 2009 H1N1, a strain that is known to impact younger individuals. This year's vaccine provides protection against both of these strains, as well as influenza B.

Appointments can be made online at www.padohclinicappt.com [1], 24 hours a day, or by calling 1-877-PA HEALTH (1-877-724-3258), Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Those under 18 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 5-11, was established to highlight the importance of continuing influenza vaccination and promoting greater use of flu vaccine throughout the holiday season, into January and beyond.

The flu can cause severe illness and even death. Nationally, it is estimated that over 36,000 people die from flu-related complications each year. In Pennsylvania, approximately 1,000 deaths occur each year.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices now recommends flu vaccination for all individuals six months of age and older.

Huff also suggested taking the following steps to help prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory illnesses:

· Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and immediately discard the used tissue. If you don't have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your sleeve, but never into your hands or onto bare skin.

· Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

· Keep your hands away from your face and do not touch your mouth, nose and eyes.

· Keep frequently used surfaces such as knobs, countertops and desks clean.

· Stay home from work or school whenever you are sick to avoid infecting others. For the flu, stay home until at least 24 hours after you are fever-free without the use of fever-reducing medications.

Individuals seeking influenza vaccine are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider or call 1-877- PA HEALTH.

For more information on seasonal influenza, visit www.health.state.pa.us [2].