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FOR RELEASE: October 4, 2006
CONTACT: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Public Health Officials Prepare to Launch Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Campaign

Officials at the Oklahoma State Department of Health are preparing to launch this year’s seasonal influenza vaccination clinics at county health departments across the state.

“Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mike Crutcher. “The single best way to protect yourself and your loved ones is to get vaccinated. Flu vaccines are safe, effective and cannot cause the flu.”

Each year, 25 million to 50 million people in the U.S. are infected with influenza. About 36,000 persons die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized in the U.S. from the disease. State health officials estimate about 400 to 500 Oklahomans die annually from complications of the flu.

Health officials encourage as many Oklahomans as possible to protect themselves from influenza by getting a flu shot this year. Flu vaccine manufacturers have indicated they expect to produce more than 100 million doses of influenza vaccines for this flu season.

Most Oklahomans get their flu shot from their physician, local retail outlets and pharmacies, or organizations like the Visiting Nurses Association. Many from these groups have already begun to provide flu shots.

The Oklahoma State Department of Health ordered almost 300,000 doses for this year’s flu season. By Monday, Oct. 30, state health officials anticipate they will have distributed enough vaccine to local county health departments to allow them to begin hosting flu shot clinics beginning on that date. “Our goal is to use every dose to protect as many Oklahomans as possible,” Crutcher said.

Typically, Oklahoma's influenza season begins in November, with the first laboratory-confirmed case identified during early December, and continues into April. The 2005-2006 season in Oklahoma was considered less intense than previous seasons but persisted into May.

“Although it is too early in the season to predict what type of flu activity we can expect, we do know the earlier you get the flu shot, the sooner you will be protected from the flu,” Crutcher noted. Alabama has already reported several cases of early-season flu.

Crutcher emphasized that persons who are considered at high risk from the complications of influenza should seek a flu shot, including the following:

  • Persons aged 50 years and older, with and without chronic health conditions.
  • Residents of long-term care facilities.
  • Persons aged 2 to 64 years of age with chronic health conditions.
  • Children aged 6 months to 59 months.
  • Pregnant women.
  • Health-care personnel who provide direct patient care.
  • Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children 6 months or younger.

Some county health departments will offer a nasal-spray flu vaccine as an option for healthy persons 5 to 49 years of age who are not pregnant. Persons interested in this vaccine should check with their county health department to see if it is available or seek it through their health care provider.

Because influenza viruses are continuously changing, new vaccine must be formulated for each season. This year’s vaccine includes three viruses, one influenza type B virus and two influenza type A viruses, which have been combined to offer protection for:

  • an A/New Caledonia/20/99 (H1N1)-like virus
  • an A/Wisconsin/67/2005 (H3N2)-like virus (A/Wisconsin/67/2005
  • and A/Hiroshima/52/2005 strains)
  • a B/Malaysia/2506/2004-like virus (B/Malaysia/2506/2004 and B/Ohio/1/2005 strains)

State health officials suggest that persons 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions should ask their doctor if they should also be vaccinated against pneumococcal pneumonia, which is a common and potentially serious complication of the flu. Unlike the influenza vaccine, the pneumococcal vaccine does not need to be given every year. This vaccine is available at county health departments and private health care providers.

For more information on influenza, visit these Web sites: www.cdc.gov/flu and www.health.ok.gov/program/cdd/flu/.

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