State public health officials are encouraging Kentuckians to get a flu vaccination during National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 8-14, to reduce the spread of illness this holiday season.
“Getting a flu vaccine is an early holiday gift you can give to yourself and your family,” said Stephanie Mayfield, M.D., commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health. “Many people visit relatives with small children or those at high risk of complications from flu around this time of year. Getting a flu vaccine can protect against the flu’s spread and severity.”
National Influenza Vaccination Week is a weeklong observation that serves as a reminder to those people who have not yet received a flu vaccine that the time to get vaccinated continues into winter – through January or later, when flu season typically peaks. Because it takes about two weeks for the body to develop protective antibodies against the flu following vaccination, Kentuckians who have not had a chance to be vaccinated should seek out the opportunity during this season. Vaccine supplies are considered plentiful at this time, but people are urged to call their providers or pharmacies to check on availability.
Throughout the week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Kentucky Department for Public Health will highlight the importance of vaccinations for those people at high risk, their close contacts and all those who want to be protected against the flu. In addition, good health habits such as washing hands often with soap and warm water, avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, and staying at home from work or school when sick will also be emphasized.
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends flu vaccine for all individuals more than 6 months of age and older. People who should especially receive the flu vaccine because they may be at higher risk for complications or negative consequences include:
• Children ages 6 months to 19 years;
• Pregnant women;
• Adults age 50 or older;
• Individuals of any age with chronic health problems;
• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities;
• Health care workers;
•Caregivers or those who live with a person at high risk for complications from the flu; and
•Out-of-home caregivers or those who live with children younger than 6 months old.
Kentuckians should receive a new flu vaccination each season for optimal protection. Healthy, non-pregnant people ages 2-49 years can be vaccinated with either the flu shot or the nasal vaccine spray. Children younger than 9 years old who did not previously receive a flu vaccination may need to receive a
second dose four or more weeks after their first vaccination to provide optimal protection. High dose flu vaccine is available for persons age 65 and older again this year. It contains a higher dose of antigen that may provide better protection against the flu for older adults.
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. For more information on influenza or the availability of flu vaccine, please contact your local health department or visit http://healthalerts.ky.gov.
In addition to flu vaccine, DPH strongly encourages all adults 65 or older and others in high-risk groups for invasive pneumococcal disease (e.g., persons with chronic pulmonary disease, asthma, chronic heart disease, diabetes, chronic renal disease, chronic liver disease, and smokers aged 19 through 64 years) 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.
“The pneumococcal vaccine is extremely safe, effective, can be taken at any time of year and is currently available in an adequate supply,” Mayfield said.
Caused by bacteria, pneumococcal disease can result in serious pneumonia, meningitis or blood infections. According to the CDC, pneumococcal disease kills more people in the U.S. each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. An average of between 20,000 and 40,000 deaths are attributed to flu and pneumonia nationally each year, with more than 90 percent of those deaths occurring in people age 65 and older.