Kentuckians urged to get flu shots
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 5, 2014) — State public health officials are encouraging Kentuckians to get a flu vaccination during National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 7-13, 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 Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH). “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.”
Kentucky’s current flu activity level has recently increased to regional, which indicates an upturn in influenza-like illness (ILI) or outbreaks of flu and laboratory confirmed flu in regions of the state.
National Influenza Vaccination Week is a weeklong observance 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 DPH 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 best way to protect against the flu is to receive a flu vaccination. The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends flu vaccine for all individuals 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 through 18 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.
- Out-of-home caregivers of or people who live with children less than 6 months old.
Kentuckians should receive a new flu vaccination each season for optimal protection. Healthy, non-pregnant people ages 2 through 49 can be vaccinated with either the flu shot or the nasal vaccine spray. Children younger than 9 years old who did not receive a previous seasonal flu vaccination should receive a second dose at least four weeks after their first vaccination.
High dose flu vaccine is available for persons aged 65 years and older this year. A higher dose of antigen in the vaccine is designed to create a stronger immune response and provide better protection against the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released information this week that some of the nation’s circulating influenza A (H3N2) type viruses, the most common so far, may not be covered well by this year’s vaccine. This situation is not unusual. It is challenging to anticipate the strains that will circulate during the season, since flu vaccine is made months before the season begins. Despite the possibility of a poor vaccine match for one of the circulating strains, vaccination still provides the best protection against influenza. The vaccine appears to be a good match for many of the strains which are being transmitted, and because of antibody cross-protection, should help to reduce hospitalizations and deaths, even in persons who may contract the mismatched strain of influenza.
In addition to flu vaccine, DPH strongly encourages all adults 65 years and older and others in high-risk groups to ask their health care provider about the pneumococcal vaccines. These vaccines can help prevent a type of pneumonia, one of the flu’s most serious and potentially deadly complications. The CDC now recommends that adults 65 years or older receive the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13, Prevnar-13) in addition to the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23, PNEUMOVAX-23). Getting both vaccines offers the best protection against pneumococcal disease. Between 3,000 and 49,000 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.
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.