FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Connecticut Department of Public Health
December 6, 2010 Contact: William Gerrish
Hartford – Connecticut Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. J. Robert Galvin reminds the people of Connecticut that there is still time to get vaccinated to protect themselves and their families from the flu this season. Dr. Galvin’s announcement comes as the state recognizes National Influenza Vaccination Week, which runs from December 5-12.
“With the holidays upon us, people often lose interest in getting vaccinated for the flu,” explained Dr. Galvin. “However, if you haven’t done so already, it’s not too late to get vaccinated to help protect you from the flu. Getting vaccinated will help to keep you and your loved ones healthy this holiday season.”
This year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages all people over the age of six months old to be vaccinated. Vaccines are encouraged for everyone, but especially for high-risk groups, including children from 6 months to 18 years of age, women who will be pregnant during the flu season, people at least 50 years old, anyone with certain chronic medical conditions and people who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.
Based on surveillance data, Connecticut is currently experiencing low but increasing influenza activity in the state. “Although we are still seeing relatively low levels of flu in Connecticut, it is still early in the flu season. Late December through early March are typically the time of year when we see peak influenza activity in Connecticut, so getting vaccinated now will help protect you from the flu when the flu season is in full swing,” stated Dr. Galvin.
Every year in the United States, on average, 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and between 3,300 and 48,000 people die from the flu. Persons with influenza usually experience a rapid onset of fever, chills, headache, and muscle ache followed by a runny nose, sore throat and cough, which is often severe and lasts for many days. Most persons with influenza recover within two to seven days.
“The single best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated – either by the flu nasal spray or injection,” said Dr. Galvin. “People should talk to their usual health care provider about getting a flu vaccination for themselves and other family members,” he said.
The influenza season runs from October-May and individuals can continue to be vaccinated throughout the course of the flu season. This year’s flu vaccine includes three different strains of the flu virus, including the 2009 H1N1 virus, which is believed to have infected millions of Americans last year. People are urged to get vaccinated for the flu, even if they were vaccinated for the H1N1 virus or seasonal flu last year. Manufacturers report that about 162 million doses of flu vaccine have already been distributed in the United States this flu season. This is the most flu vaccine ever distributed in the United States in a single season.
Parents are also being reminded that children under the age of nine years old may need to receive two doses of the flu vaccine to be fully protected from the flu. Parents whose children have received their first dose of the vaccine should contact their health care provider or clinic where they were vaccinated to see if a second dose is required.
When children who live in impoverished and crowded communities get influenza, they are at increased risk for getting seriously ill and being hospitalized with the flu. It is very important that parents of children in these areas have their children vaccinated for the flu to prevent serious, or even life-threatening, illness. Vaccines are available at no charge for children who are uninsured through the Vaccines for Children Program. For information on the Vaccines for Children program, please call the Department of Public Health Immunizations Program at (860) 509-7929.
Whether you receive the flu vaccine or not, there are some other steps you can take to avoid the flu this year and stay healthy:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.
- Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- 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.
- Seek care early. See your healthcare provider immediately if you develop flu symptoms; antiviral medications can help if taken early in the illness.
To find a flu vaccine clinic and to learn more about seasonal influenza, visit the CT Flu Watch web site at www.ct.gov/ctfluwatch and click on “Find a Clinic” in the left hand column. You can also call the Department of Public Health Immunizations Program at (860) 509-7929 for information on flu clinics in your area or check with your health care provider to see if they have the vaccine available.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health is the state’s leader in public health policy and advocacy with a mission to protect and promote the health and safety of the people of our state. To contact the department, please visit its website at www.ct.gov/dph or call (860) 509-7270.