If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, this week is an excellent time to get it, with the holidays coming up

State health officials are encouraging Kentuckians to
get a flu vaccination during National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 7-13.
“Getting a flu vaccine is an early holiday gift you can
give to yourself and your family,” said Dr. Stephanie Mayfield, commissioner of
the Department for Public Health. “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.”
National Influenza Vaccination Week is 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.
Throughout the week, health departments and the federal Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention
 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.
Kentucky’s flu activity level has recently increased to regional, which indicates an upturn in influenza-like illness or outbreaks of flu in some regions of the state.
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; and
• 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.
The CDC says some of the nation’s circulating flu viruses may not be covered well by this year’s
vaccine.  That is not unusual. “Despite the possibility of a poor
vaccine match for one of the circulating strains, vaccination still provides
the best protection against influenza,” a state news release said. “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, the health department 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 that is 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.

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