Health and Family Services Cabinet
State Health Department Urges Kentuckians to Get Flu, Pneumonia Vaccinations
With this year’s flu season under way in Kentucky and ample supply of vaccine available, state health department officials are urging Kentuckians to get their annual flu shot.
“Each year, many Kentuckians are hospitalized due to complications from the influenza virus, so it’s extremely important to get a flu shot,” said William Hacker, M.D., public health commissioner and acting undersecretary for health at the Cabinet for Health and Family Services. ”Unlike previous years when manufacturing issues or shipping delays occurred, plenty of vaccine should be on hand this season for anyone who wants to be vaccinated."
This year, national guidelines have expanded the ages of children considered to be in the high risk category for flu. It’s now recommended that all children between the ages of six months and 59 months (4 years and 11 months) have a flu shot each year. The recommendation used to apply only for children ages six months to 24 months.
The flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May, and usually peaks between January and March. 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, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Infants and the elderly population are most at risk of serious illness, hospitalization or death from the flu.
Immunization is particularly recommended to protect Kentuckians 65 and older; all children six months to 59 months; and those with a chronic disease such as heart disease, cancer, asthma or diabetes. Healthy individuals 50 to 64 also are strongly recommended to receive flu immunizations. An annual flu vaccine (either the flu shot or the nasal-spray flu vaccine) is the best way to reduce the chances of getting the flu and prevent spreading the flu virus to others.
Other good health habits that can help prevent the spread of flu and other respiratory viruses include:
• Wash your hands often to help protect you from germs.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve if you don't have a tissue. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you’re sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
• If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you’re sick. You’ll help prevent others from catching your illness.
In addition to flu vaccine, the Department for Public Health (DPH) 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 pneumonia, one of the flu’s most serious and potentially deadly complications.
“The pneumococcal vaccine is extremely safe, effective, can be taken at any time of year and is currently available in an adequate supply,” Hacker said.
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. 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.
Flu is responsible for approximately 200,000 hospitalizations and 36,000 deaths a year in the United States. While it is a serious virus, it is also a preventable virus.
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.