In response to statewide sickness and residents' requests, the Health Department offered three immunization clinics this week. Twenty people came Tuesday, according to Program Manager Mary Mahon.
On Thursday, nurses gave shots in Hancock and Hagerstown. Between 10 a.m. and noon at the Health Department, 156 people got flu shots and 10 got pneumonia shots.
"This is the first time we've had such a large response," Mahon said.
Between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. at the Hancock Community Center, 33 people got flu shots and six got pneumonia shots.
Another clinic will be held at Noland Village Community Center in Hagerstown Jan. 20.
The flu season generally runs from November to March or April. The Health Department decided to give shots late in the season because many people called to request them.
"We really emphasize getting it sooner," Mahon said.
"We're glad to do it, but we also want to send the message to come earlier next year."
Once a shot is administered, antibodies take about two weeks to develop, depending on one's metabolism.
Some schools have had high absentee rates recently, but Health Officer Robert Parker said no cases of influenza have been confirmed by laboratory testing for Washington County.
According to Director of Student Services Martha Roulette, Western Heights and E. Russell Hicks middle schools reported absentee rates of 11 percent Tuesday. North Hagerstown High School reported 10 percent of its students absent Wednesday, she said.
Influenza is caused by a virus that can cause fever, coughs, chills, aches and sore throat. People of any age can catch it.
While most are only ill a few days, others get sicker and have to be hospitalized. Flu causes thousands of deaths a year, mostly among the elderly, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
People at risk for getting a serious case of influenza include the elderly, residents of long-term care facilities housing people with chronic health conditions and those with long-term health problems such as heart disease, lung disease or diabetes.
"I always get it (flu shot) every year, and it works because I never get sick," said Ruth Llewellyn, 73, of Hagerstown. "I think it is very necessary, even for the younger ones."
She said she tried to get her shot earlier but had to cancel an appointment.
"I was the one who was negligent," she said.
Nelson Corderman, 59, of Hagerstown, said he usually gets a flu shot at the Elks Club. He missed it this year. "I think it's something to be serious about. Who wants to be sick?" he said.
Corderman said some of his co-workers have missed as much as a week's work because of illness.
The Health Department's immunizations are free but a $7 donation is requested. Medicare can be billed for those with cards.
Corderman said the shots are a bargain.
"Compared to other medicine, it's cheap," he said.