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National Influenza Vaccination Week

Monday, December 7, 2015

December 6th -12th is National Influenza Vaccination Week.  You may be thinking, “Isn’t it too late for the flu shot?”  The answer is definitely not.  As long as flu viruses are spreading, it’s not too late to get a vaccine to protect yourself and your loved ones.

For millions of people every season, the flu can mean a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue, and miserable days spent in bed.  Flu also causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations, and thousands or sometimes tens of thousands of deaths.

“While influenza cases are still sporadic across New York State, the season typically peaks in January or February depending on the year,” says Mary Stewart, Infection Prevention Coordinator at Noyes Health. “We are encouraging people who have not yet been vaccinated this season to get vaccinated now.”  Stewart suggests calling your primary care physician or visiting a local pharmacy to obtain a flu shot.   

While how well the vaccine works can vary, the benefits from vaccination are well documented. Studies show that flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits, missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.   Stewart indicates that “the influenza shot is highly effective but not a 100% guarantee that you will not get the flu.  If you do contract it, however, chances are the symptoms will be mild compared to a person who has not been vaccinated.”

This is why CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. Flu vaccine is available as a shot and as a nasal spray. According to Dr. Jernigan of the CDC, however, “the most important thing is that you get vaccinated, not necessarily which vaccine you get.” Talk to your doctor or other health care professional about which vaccine is best for you and your family.

Some people are at high risk for serious flu-related complications, like pneumonia, that can lead to hospitalization and even death. This includes young children, pregnant women, people 65 and older and people with certain medical conditions, like asthma, diabetes or heart disease. For those at high risk for complications, getting the flu vaccine is especially important. It’s also important to get the vaccine if you care for anyone at high risk, including babies younger than 6 months because they are too young to get the vaccine. To learn more about high risk conditions, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/high_risk.htm.

Children 6 months through 8 years of age who are getting vaccinated for the first time may need two doses of flu vaccine to be fully protected. If a child has not received his/her first dose, get them vaccinated now. For children who are 6 months through 8 years of age and who have been vaccinated with one dose, parents should check with the child’s doctor or other health care professional to see if a second dose is needed.

“Getting the flu vaccine is simple, and it’s the most important thing you can do to protect yourself and your family from the flu,” says Dr. Jernigan. Millions of people have safely received flu vaccines for decades.   Mary Stewart of Noyes Health also recommends the following precautions during flu season:

Wash your hands often

Cough or sneeze into your sleeve or elbow NOT into your hands

Please do not visit the hospital if you are ill; if you must come to visit, please stop at the receptionist desk in the main lobby and ask for a mask.

Use alcohol hand sanitizer when entering AND leaving the hospital.

For more information about influenza or the flu vaccine, talk to your doctor or other health care professional, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu or call CDC at 1-800-232-4636.  

Lorraine Wichtowski is a community health educator at Noyes Health in Dansville.  If you have questions or suggestions for future articles she can be reached at lwichtowski@noyeshealth.org or 585-335-4327.  

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