Health and Family Services Cabinet
Governor Beshear Encourages Kentuckians to Get Influenza Vaccinations; Increased emphasis this year aims to protect more children with flu shots

Press Release Date:  Friday, September 12, 2008  
Contact Information:  Media Contact: Gwenda Bond or Vikki Franklin, (502) 564-6786, ext. 3325 or 3429  


LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 12, 2008) – With influenza season just around the corner and an ample supply of vaccine expected this season, Governor Steve Beshear joined state and local health officials at the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department today to urge Kentuckians to get a flu shot or nasal vaccine spray — and to encourage parents to make sure children older than 6 months also receive protection against the flu.
     
 “The best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu is to receive the flu shot or nasal vaccine spray. This year the federal government has released new recommendations that emphasize the need for most children over 6 months of age to receive annual flu vaccinations,” said Gov. Beshear. “Ensuring that all eligible children and adults are vaccinated helps protect the health of our communities at large, by reducing the flu’s spread and severity.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ (ACIP) updated recommendations for the coming flu season include:

• Annual vaccination of all children aged 5-18 years;
• Children aged 6 months through 4 years (59 months) continue to be a primary focus of annual vaccination efforts because these children are at a higher risk for flu complications compared with older children;
• Children aged 6 months-8 years should receive two doses of vaccine if they have not been vaccinated previously; and
• Healthy, non-pregnant people aged 2-49 years can receive either the flu shot or the nasal vaccine spray.

   
The focus on increasing vaccination among children reflects the serious health effects the flu can potentially cause among this population. Children younger than 2 years old — even healthy children — have a high risk of ending up in the hospital if they get the flu, and children 2-5 years old are more likely to be taken to a doctor, urgent treatment center or an emergency department due to the flu, according to the CDC. Each year in the U.S., as many as 20,000 children under age 5 are hospitalized because of the flu.

Kentucky expects local health departments and private providers to have plenty of vaccine on hand for this year’s season, and clinics are already being scheduled at many locations around the state. For information on vaccine availability, Kentuckians should contact their health provider or local health department. 

“It’s important that children and others receive a flu vaccine each year to ensure maximum protection,” said Kraig Humbaugh, M.D., state epidemiologist at the Department for Public Health.

The flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May, but usually peaks between January and March. September, October and November are good months to be vaccinated for flu because it takes about two weeks for immunity to develop and offer protection against flu. However, vaccination can be given any time during the flu season. Infection with the flu virus can cause fever, headache, cough, sore throat, runny nose, sneezing and body aches.
      
Immunization is strongly recommended to protect Kentuckians 65 and older and those with a chronic disease such as heart disease, cancer, asthma or diabetes. Healthy individuals 50 to 64 are also strongly recommended to receive flu vaccine.
      
In addition to flu vaccine, the officials encouraged 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.
      
Caused by bacteria, pneumococcal disease can result in serious pneumonia, meningitis or blood infections. According to the CDC, pneumococcal disease kills more people in the U.S. each year than all other vaccine-preventable diseases combined. Nationally, between 20,000 and 40,000 deaths are attributable to flu and pneumonia each year, with more than 90 percent of those deaths occurring in people age 65 and older.
      
For more information on influenza disease or the availability of flu immunizations, please contact your local health department or visit DPH’s flu Web site at http://www.chfs.ky.gov/dph/Influenza.htm.

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