Flu vaccine still available

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By The Staff

Kentucky Department for Public Health officials are reminding Kentuckians that it's not too late to get vaccinated against the flu, especially during this holiday season.

"Now is a good time to protect yourself and your family by putting a flu shot on your holiday list," stated William Hacker, M.D., commissioner of DPH and acting undersecretary for health at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

"As the holidays approach, people will be traveling and families will gather together, increasing the potential for exposure to the flu. We are strongly urging anyone who hasn't received a flu vaccine, particularly those at high risk for complications related to the flu, to check with local health departments or other providers."

Taylor County Health Department still has a few doses of vaccine left, according to RN Ruthie Bender.

"We have been trying to accommodate people on a walk-in basis. We have several doses of Flumist for eligible children."

Flumist is available for children ages 2 to 18 who do not have health insurance to pay for the vaccine.

Call the health department at 465-4191 for more information.

Kentucky's flu activity is currently classified as "sporadic," the lowest level of flu activity. The flu season can begin as early as October and last through May, and usually peaks between January and March. The holiday season is still a good time to get vaccinated against the flu because it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop and offer protection against flu. However, vaccination can be given any time during the flu season, and this year there is a plentiful vaccine supply.

Although almost anyone who wants protection against influenza can receive a flu shot, annual influenza vaccinations are particularly recommended for: all children ages 6 months to 4 years; adults 65 or older; people ages 2-64 with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, cancer, asthma or diabetes; women who will be pregnant during flu season; residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities; children 6 months to 18 years old on chronic aspirin therapy; health care workers; household contacts of children less than 6 months old; and caregivers of people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for severe complications from the flu.

Healthy individuals ages 50 to 64 are also strongly recommended to receive flu immunizations.

Flu is responsible for about 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths a year in the United States. While it can be a serious disease that can result in extended time away from work and school, influenza is preventable. Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches, according to the CDC. Infants and the elderly are most at risk of serious illness, hospitalization or death from the flu.

In addition to the flu vaccine, DPH strongly encourages 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.

"The pneumococcal vaccine is extremely safe, effective, can be taken at any time of year and is currently available in an adequate supply," Hacker 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. 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.

For more information on flu or the availability of flu immunizations, contact your local health department or visit DPH's flu Web site at http://www.chfs.ky.gov/dph/Influenza.htm.