Holidays put people more at risk of getting, spreading the flu
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Dec. 2, 2015) — State public health officials are encouraging Kentuckians to get a flu vaccination during National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 6-12, to reduce the spread of illness this holiday season. Kentucky’s flu activity is currently classified as “local,” indicating outbreaks of flu or increases in Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) cases in a single region of the state.
“As the holidays approach, people will be traveling, and families will gather together, increasing the potential for exposure to the flu,” said Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, deputy commissioner of the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH). “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 their regular health care provider, local health departments or other vaccine providers.”
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 February 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 now. 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, 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 Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends flu vaccine for all individuals 6 months of age and older. People who are strongly encouraged to receive the flu vaccine because they may be at higher risk for complications or negative consequences include:
- Children ages 6 months through 4 years
- Pregnant women
- People 50 years of age or older
- People age 6 months and older with chronic health problems
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- Health care workers, household contacts and caregivers or people who live with a person at high risk for complications from the flu
- Out-of-home caregivers of children younger 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 spray vaccine. Children ages 6 months through 8 years who have never received a previous seasonal flu vaccination or have only received one flu vaccination in the past should receive a second dose four or more weeks after their first vaccination. Health professionals can help determine if a child will need two vaccinations against flu this season, in order to provide the best protection
Some high-dose flu vaccine is available as an option for individuals age 65 years and older. A higher dose of antigen in the vaccine is designed to create a stronger immune response and provide better protection against the flu. However, CDC has not expressed a preference for high-dose vaccine, so Kentuckians 65 and older are urged to receive the regular dose vaccine if the high dose vaccine is unavailable.
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. CDC recommends that adults age 65 years and older receive the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV13, Prevnar-13) in addition to the pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPSV23, Pneumovax-23) spaced at least one year apart. Getting both vaccines offers the best protection against pneumococcal disease. Between 3,000 and 49,000 influenza-associated deaths occur nationally each year, with 80 to 90 percent of those deaths occurring in people age 65 years and older.
Individuals with compromised immunity, those with sickle cell disease, without a spleen, with cochlear implants or cerebrospinal fluid leaks should also receive a series of the two pneumococcal vaccines. People ages 19 through 64 who smoke cigarettes or have asthma should also get the pneumococcal vaccine. People with chronic heart disease, chronic lung disease, diabetes and chronic liver disease should also ask their medical providers about pneumococcal vaccine. For children, routine vaccination for pneumococcal disease is recommended beginning at 2 months of age.
Flu can be very contagious. Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches. Persons who develop flu symptoms should seek medical advice about the need for a medical evaluation or treatment with an antiviral drug, which could shorten the course of the illness or reduce its severity. For more information on influenza or the availability of flu vaccine, contact your local health department or visit http://healthalerts.ky.gov.