Flu Vaccine Clinic Set

With the release of additional flu vaccine to St. Mary's County, the Health Department is moving forward with its plans for a vaccination clinic targeted at long-term care patients and high-risk residents.

"After many weeks of uncertainty about our ability to provide protection to our most vulnerable residents, we are relieved to have received this latest shipment," Community Health Services Director Nancy Luginbill said in a statement released Wednesday. "We have already distributed flu vaccine to our long-term care facilities and are moving forward with plans for a public clinic at the Health Department."

The Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene released 1,800 vaccine doses to the county, bringing the total number of vaccines within range of the amount originally ordered by the Health Department.

County health officials have scheduled a community flu vaccine clinic from 3 to 7 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Health Department in Leonardtown. Residents of St. Mary's County who fall into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's high-risk categories will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis.

Age alone is not considered a risk factor. "Healthy adults, including those over the age of 65, do not fall into a high-risk category," said William Icenhower, St. Mary's County health officer. "We are still highly focused on providing coverage for individuals who are at the greatest risk for complications if they contract the flu."

Health Department staff members will enforce an age restriction of 4 years or older and will administer flu vaccine to the following high-risk groups:

* Patients with heart disease.

* Patients with lung disease, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma.

* People who are missing their spleen.

* Those being treated for cancer.

* Patients with immune disorders.

* Pregnant women.

* People who have a child younger than 6 months old in their immediate household.

* People who have had an organ transplant.

* Patients who take insulin for diabetes.

Flu clinic participants will be admitted to the waiting area to avoid long lines outside. During high volume times, visitors may be given a reservation and asked to return during a period of lower volume.

The Health Department will accept donations for the flu vaccine, but no one will be denied services because of inability to pay. The average donation is $10. In addition, health department staff members will bill Medicare for those participants who are eligible. Pneumonia vaccines will also be available.

For more information, call the St. Mary's County Health Department at 301-475-4330 or visit the Health Department Web site at www.smchd.org.

Early Home Life in Md.

Blazing fires, garden-fresh food, buckskin cloaks and rustic sailor's fare -- was life really simpler 350 years ago? Hearth and Home in Early Maryland, the final event of the season at Historic St. Mary's City, invites visitors to discover just how simple life really was for Maryland's first residents in the years before grocery stores and retail outlets.

With winter bearing down fast, building up food stores, woodworking, preparing for the hunt and tool making were the order of the day at this time of year. At the Woodland Indian Hamlet and the Godiah Spray Tobacco Plantation, visitors will be able to see the ways food was readied for winter storage by the Yaocomico Indians and the colonists. Visitors can help churn butter, grind corn and watch as dinner is prepared over an open flame.

Hearth and Home in Early Maryland will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Historic St. Mary's City is located off Route 5. Admission is $7.50 for adults, $6 for seniors and students, $3.50 for children 6-12 years old.

Preventing Food Ilnesses

St. Mary's County public health officials reminded residents last week that practicing safe food handling in the kitchen throughout the holiday season may spare them and their guests the unpleasant and sometimes serious consequences of a food-borne illness.

Following simple guidelines for preparing meats and fresh produce will reduce the risk that unhealthy levels of bacteria will form or that cross contamination will occur during meal preparation.

St. Mary's County Health Officer William Icenhower said ailments that people often attribute to the flu "bug"are often the result of food contamination. "Chances are 'the bug' originated with something eaten, particularly if the primary symptoms were diarrhea, vomiting, stomach cramps or nausea," Icenhower said in an announcement.

The Health Department recommends following the guidelines of Fight BAC!, a national consumer education campaign sponsored by the Partnership for Food Safety Education.

These guidelines include four basic food safety precautions to help reduce the risk of illness:

* Clean -- wash hands and surfaces often.

* Separate -- don't cross contaminate.

* Cook -- cook to proper temperatures.

* Chill -- refrigerate promptly.

For more information on the Fight BAC! guidelines or other safe food handling practices, visit www.fightbac.org or the St. Mary's County Health Department Web site, www.smchd.org.

St. Mary's County has scheduled a community flu vaccine clinic for high-risk residents from 3 to 7 p.m. Nov. 29 at the Health Department in Leonardtown.