County health department tackles flu season

Published on Thu, Oct 2, 2003
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County health department tackles flu season

The approach of fall reminds us that flu season is ahead. The flu � also called influenza � is a respiratory disease which causes sudden fever, chills, muscle aches, headache, sore throat and cough. The flu is spread by being in close contact with the coughs and sneezes of someone who already has it. While most of us only have to miss a few days from school or work, the flu causes thousands of hospitalizations and deaths each year among the high-risk groups.

How do you keep from getting and spreading the flu?

�By far the best way to prevent flu is to get flu vaccine every year � especially if you�re a person who has a high risk of getting complications from flu illness�, said Dr. Stern, Whatcom County health officer.

�If you do get sick, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, and wash your hands often to keep from spreading your illness to others,� Stern aid.

When and where can you get flu vaccine? The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not anticipate any flu vaccine shortages this year. All high-risk and healthy persons who want vaccines can get it as soon as it is available.

The best time for getting flu vaccines is October and November, but December is not too late for those who don�t get immunized earlier. Flu vaccine is arriving in Whatcom County and will be available in many locations in October and November.

A schedule of sites offering flu vaccine is available at the Whatcom County Health Department�s web site: www.whatcomcounty.us/health. People without web access can call the Health Department, 676-6720, for schedules. In addition to location information, most doctors� offices will have flu vaccine available for their patients.

Who should get the flu vaccine? Persons who have a high risk of complications from flu illness, including:
� Persons aged 65 years and older.
� Children aged six to 23 months old.
� Residents of chronic-care facilities that house persons of any age with chronic medical conditions
� Adults and children who have chronic pulmonary or cardiovascular disease, including asthma
� Adults and children needing regular medical follow-up during the past year because of chronic metabolic diseases, renal dysfunction, hemoglobinopathies, or immunosuppression.
� Children and adolescents aged six months to 18 years who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy

Because young, otherwise healthy children who get flu are more likely to be hospitalized, the CDC encourages flu shots for six to 23-month-old children.

The FDA has approved a nasal flu vaccine that can be used only for healthy persons between five and 49 years of age. It is a live vaccine and should not be given to high-risk persons nor to health care workers.

For more information, call the health department at 676-6720.

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