Thursday, October 14, 2010

It's not too early to get vaccinated as flu season nears

The influenza season is approaching and Racine County Health Officials are encouraging all residents 6 months and older to get vaccinated. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Southern Hemisphere’s predominant circulating influenza viruses are good matches for all three types of influenza contained in this year’s seasonal influenza vaccine. Influenza season in the United States generally occurs during the winter months but can occur as early as October or as late as April. Wisconsin has only seen sporadic cases so far this season.

Influenza vaccination is the single most important method to prevent influenza infections. The CDC now recommends that all people aged 6 months and older should receive a flu shot. Children under 6 months of age are best protected when their household members and caregivers are vaccinated against influenza. Flu shots are available from various health care providers throughout the community.

Additional methods to protect yourself and others from contracting and spreading influenza are the use of common sense measures such as good handwashing and covering your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. People with symptoms of influenza, fever (or feeling feverish), cough, sore throat, runny nose, achiness and fatigue, should stay home from work or school during their illness.

Influenza has a significant impact on the community each year. Recently the CDC analyzed three decades of influenza seasons (1976-2007) and reported an estimate of 23,607 deaths per year from influenza infections on average. The actual number of deaths varies from season to season ranging from 3,349 to 48,614 deaths depending on the type of influenza circulating. In addition to causing death, the effects of influenza can burden the United States health care system and workforce resulting in increased medical costs, hospitalizations and lost worker productivity.

For more information on obtaining a flu shot, contact your health care provider, local health department, or visit the Wisconsin Flu Clinic Finder on the web.