Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System (SVMHS) is celebrating a successful free Community Flu Clinic, with hundreds of people vaccinated on Sunday. This was Salinas Valley Memorial’s third free community flu clinic of the season.

Influenza activity started earlier than usual in the Monterey County region and has reached widespread levels. In December, there were 98 positive cases at SVMHS and 74 cases in the first eleven days of January. Registered nurses from SVMHS administered the free vaccines.

“This year the influenza virus is more virulent,” says Christy Gonder, RN, Chief Nursing Officer at Salinas Valley Memorial Healthcare System. “More people than usual are contracting the flu and are coming to the ER. We’re pleased that hundreds of people took advantage of our free flu clinic.”

According to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) three people have died from the Flu in California this season. A few weeks ago, one person died from flu complications in Monterey County.

“It’s important to offer these free flu clinics to the community,” says Claudia Venegas, a Salinas Resident who got her free flu shot. “There are people who don’t have money or health insurance and don’t protect themselves with the flu vaccine. This is the third year I’ve come to this free flu clinic. The nurses are great, it’s fast, and it’s a nice environment.”

The flu can cause mild to severe illness and is different than an ordinary cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly. The symptoms include, fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuff nose, muscle or body aches, and fatigue. Some people, especially children may have vomiting and diarrhea. Not everyone suffering from the flu will have a fever.

Vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu. This year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not recommending the use of the Flu Mist. People six months or older should get vaccinated. Salinas Valley Memorial has held two previous free community flu clinics this season in Salinas and in Gonzales where hundreds of people were vaccinated.