As the holidays draw near, local and state health officials are urging all Kansans to get their annual flu vaccination to fight the spread of the respiratory influenza this season.
To draw attention to this, Dec. 4-10 is National Influenza Vaccination Week. Although flu can occur at anytime, flu activity is generally highest in February and continues throughout early spring.
December is a great time to get vaccinated as the shot takes about two weeks to provide optimal protection, said Lily Akings, Barton County Health Department director. By getting vaccinated in early in the month, one may decrease the risk of spreading the flu virus during parties and gatherings this time of year.
“It’s not too late to get an influenza vaccination,” Akings said. “We are continuing to work with KDHE and Centers for Disease Control to immunize as many people as possible in order to better protect the vulnerable populations in our community.”
According to the director, there is still vaccine available. “We encourage our community to see their health care providers.”
Additionally, avoid spreading the flu virus by covering coughs and sneezes, washing your hands and staying home when you are sick.
On average, five to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu yearly, and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with flu complications, the The Kansas Department of Health and Environment reported. In the 2009-2010 flu season, 31 Kansans died from influenza. In the 2010-2011 flu season there were 14 deaths.
Older people, pregnant women, young children and people with certain health conditions are at high risk for serious flu complications. Serious complication of the flu can lead to pneumonia and even death.
Symptoms of the flu include: fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, dehydrating and may worsen other chronic conditions.
“The flu can be unpredictable, so it’s important to get vaccinated early,” said Robert Moser, M.D., KDHE secretary and state health officer. “You may not be a person with one of the high risk conditions; however, when you are vaccinated, you are protecting those that are most vulnerable to serious disease.”
All persons six months and older are recommended to receive a flu vaccine. Anyone caring for, or in regular contact with, an infant less than six months of age should also be immunized. Babies this age are too young to be vaccinated and are more vulnerable to the complications from influenza disease.
For information on receiving the flu vaccine contact a health care provider or the local health department. Visit www.kdheks.gov/flu for influenza facts.