10:11am

Thu September 29, 2011
Science/Health

Flu Season Here Again

State public health officials are encouraging Kentuckians to get the flu vaccine now to reduce the spread of illness this coming flu season. “We recommend that Kentuckians get their flu vaccine now to protect themselves and their families as we move into flu season,” Dr. Steve Davis, acting commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health, said. “Getting the flu vaccine each year is the best way to protect against the flu’s spread and severity.”

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is now recommending flu vaccine for all individuals older than 6 months of age. People who should especially receive the flu vaccine, because they may be at higher risk for complications or negative consequences, include:

• Children age 6 months to 19 years;
• Pregnant women;
• People 50 years old or older;
• People of any age with chronic health problems;
• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;
• Health care workers;
• Caregivers of or people who live with a person at high risk for complications from the flu; and
· Out-of-home caregivers of or people who live with children less than 6 months old.

Healthy, non-pregnant people age 2-49 years can receive either the flu shot or the nasal vaccine spray. Children younger than 9 years old who are being vaccinated against flu for the first time should receive a second dose four or more weeks after their first vaccination.

Local health departments and private health care providers are expected to have adequate supplies of flu vaccine on hand for this year’s season. Kentuckians should contact their health care provider or local health department for more information.

Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches. Flu is a very contagious disease caused by the flu virus, which spreads from person to person. Approximately 23,000 deaths due to seasonal flu and its complications occur on average each year in the U.S., according to recently updated estimates from the CDC. However, actual numbers of deaths vary from year to year.

“We also recommend good health habits to prevent illness, such as washing hands often with soap and water, and avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth. And if people are sick, we recommend they stay home from work or school,” Davis said in a press release.

In addition to the flu vaccine, officials encourage all adults 65 or older and others in high-risk groups to ask their health care provider about the pneumococcal vaccine. This vaccine can help prevent a type of pneumonia, one of the flu’s most serious and potentially deadly complications.

For more information on influenza or the availability of flu vaccine, please contact your local health department or visit healthalerts.ky.gov.