December 11, 2013
The “Flu” Has Arrived
This week, public health received the first report of the season of a local who has a laboratory confirmed influenza infection. The individual has not traveled out of the area, and has not been hospitalized.
Seasonal flu activity in continuing to increase in parts of the US, and is expected to continue to rise in the coming weeks. Hardest hit areas include the South Central and Southeast regions of the country, especially Mississippi, Texas, Alabama, and Louisiana. California is experiencing the expected low levels thus far.
Nationwide, there have been 3 influenza-associated pediatric deaths so far. Last year, there were 169 pediatric deaths in children younger than 18 years of age. Almost half of children who are hospitalized or die from complications of influenza have no identified underlying medical conditions! These deaths are a somber reminder of the danger that flu poses to even healthy children.
This week (Dec 8-14) happens to be National Influenza Vaccination Week. Getting an annual flu vaccine remains the single most effective way for you to prevent the flu and its potentially serious complications. Flu vaccine can reduce flu illnesses, doctor’s visits, missed work or school due to the flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths for yourself, your family, and your community. Thus far, the vaccine is a perfect match for the strains of influenza that are circulating.
We want to highlight several points:
- Flu vaccine is recommended for everyone older than 6 months of age – that includes you!
- Getting the vaccine is especially important for children younger than 5 years of age and children of any age with an underlying medical condition like asthma, a neurological or neurodevelopmental disorder or immune suppression. In addition, vaccine is especially important for people who come in contact with high risk children.
- Pregnant women should all get the flu vaccine (in any trimester), as they are more likely to become seriously ill with the flu, and have a greater chance for serious problems for their unborn baby, including premature labor and delivery.
- Since babies under 6 months of age cannot get a vaccine, pregnant mothers, and all caregiver’s and close contacts (Dad’s, siblings, grandparents, and babysitters) should be vaccinated to protect the baby.
- An egg free vaccine is available this year for those persons with severe egg allergies.
If you have not gotten your flu vaccine yet this season, now is the time! It will take about 2 weeks for protection to develop. Vaccine is offered locally at doctor’s offices, clinics, pharmacies, and the health department. Do yourself, your family, and your community a favor – get a flu vaccine before the holidays!