Flu vaccine recommended for all over 6 months; pneumonia vaccine recommended for those 65 and older and at high risk

Vaccination is the best way to keep from getting the flu, and with two influenza cases already reported in Kentucky, now is the time to schedule your annual flu shot, says the state Department for Public Health.

Kentucky’s flu season typically begins in October or November, so many health-care providers have vaccine supplies on hand. Adequate supplies of flu vaccine should be available for this year’s season, according to a news release from the department.

It is best to get your flu vaccine early because it takes about two weeks for the vaccination to take effect, but flu shots can be given any time during the flu season.  It is recommended that you have a new flu vaccination each season, and children younger than 9 who did not receive a flu shot last season should get a second dose four or more weeks after their first vaccination, according to the release.

“Getting the flu can be debilitating and sometimes life-threatening, and vaccination is the best tool we have to prevent illness,” said Stephanie Mayfield, M.D., commissioner of the department. She suggested following a few simple steps to reduce the risk of getting the flu and other illnesses: Wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and stay home when you’re sick.

The Department for Public Health and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommends flu vaccine for all individuals older than 6 months. The vaccine is especially recommended for people who are at higher risk for complications or negative consequences from the flu. 
 These include:
 • Children 6 months to 19 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

A variety of vaccine options are available, including injections, nasal vaccine spray, intradermal vaccination and high dose flu vaccines, so many consumers have a choice about how they get vaccinated.  Ask your health care provider which option is best for you.

Flu is a contagious disease caused by the flu virus and spreads from person to person. Symptoms include fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches. Seasonal flu and its complications cause an average of 23,000 deaths  each year in the U.S.

In addition to the flu vaccine, the Department for Public Health also 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, according to the release.

High risk groups for invasive pneumococcal disease are:

  • persons with chronic pulmonary disease
  • asthma
  • chronic heart disease
  • diabetes
  • chronic renal disease
  • chronic liver disease
  • smokers aged 19 through 64 years

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, according to the release.

For more information on influenza or the availability of flu vaccine, contact your local health department or visit http://healthalerts.ky.gov.

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