October 2nd, 2008
HARRISBURG – With record amounts of flu vaccine available, the Pennsylvania Department of Health today urged Pennsylvanians – especially those in high-risk groups – to protect themselves against illness by getting a flu shot.
“High-risk individuals include people with existing medical conditions, residents of nursing homes, and those who work in health care settings,” said state Deputy Health Secretary Janice Kopelman. “Flu is more than just an inconvenient illness; it is a serious public health concern and vaccination is still the best way to prevent its spread.”
This year, the federal Centers for Disease Control expanded the influenza vaccination recommendation to include all children from 6 months through age 18. Previously, the recommendation was for children from 6 months to 5 years old.
An estimated 36,000 individuals die from influenza-related illnesses each year and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized nationwide. Rates of serious illness and death are highest among persons over the age of 65 and individuals of any age who have chronic medical conditions that place them at increased risk for complications from influenza.
While October and November are ideal months to be vaccinated against the flu, individuals can still receive vaccination throughout the winter months. Flu cases traditionally peak between January and March.
The influenza vaccine is recommended for:
- All children 6 months through 18 years of age;
- People 50 years of age and older regardless of their medical history;
- People with underlying health conditions such as heart, respiratory, kidney, liver metabolic, and immune system problems;
- People with weakened immune systems such as HIV/AIDS, long-term treatment of steroids, and cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs;
- People who have cognitive dysfunction, and muscle or nerve disorders (such as spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy or seizure disorders) that can lead to breathing or swallowing problems;
- People who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy who, therefore, might be at risk for Reyes syndrome after influenza infection;
- Residents of nursing homes and other chronic-care facilities;
- Women who will be pregnant anytime during the influenza season;
- Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children 0-59 months of age;
- Physicians, nurses, family members, or anyone else in close contacts with any of these groups at risk for influenza; and
- Anyone wishing to reduce the likelihood of becoming ill from influenza.
Kopelman strongly encouraged health care workers to get vaccinated to protect staff and their patients while reducing disease burden and health care costs. According to recent studies, only 44 percent of health care personnel receive the influenza vaccination.
For more information on influenza, contact the Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH or visit www.health.state.pa.us
and click on the immunization link.