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For Release: December 4, 2008
Contact: Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

Give the Gift of Health, Vaccinate Against the Flu, Include children 6 months to age 18

With the holidays fast approaching, one of the best gifts you can give is the gift of health. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) would like to remind the public that it is not too late to get your influenza (flu) shot. Oklahoma’s flu season generally runs from October through May and prevention by vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu and protect your family and others.

New this year is a recommendation from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that children 6 months through 18 years of age should get the flu vaccine to protect themselves as well as those vulnerable persons around them who may be at risk for complications from influenza. The vaccine is also recommended for pregnant women, anyone age 50 or older, persons of any age with chronic medical conditions, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and those who live with or care for persons at high risk of flu complications, especially health care workers.

“Take time to get your flu shot and remind or schedule other family members to get their flu shot. Flu shots are available at most doctors’ offices, pharmacies, through the Visiting Nurses Association, and at local county health departments, while supplies last,” said OSDH Immunization Service Chief Don Blose.

“Many people travel around the country and visit relatives during the holiday season, which often increases transmission of influenza. While no cases of flu have yet been confirmed in the state, some states around Oklahoma have reported activity,” Blose noted.

More than 400,000 doses of adult and child flu vaccine were distributed to county health departments and public and private healthcare providers statewide this year. As of December 1, there were about 25,000 doses of adult and 25,000 doses of child vaccine still available through county health departments across the state. State public health officials believe supplies of vaccine will be sufficient to meet this year’s demand and are encouraged to see the large number of Oklahomans who have already received a flu shot.

Each year about 60 million Americans get the flu, resulting in about 36,000 deaths and more than 200,000 hospitalizations. This year’s flu vaccine protects against the three main flu strains that research indicates will cause the most illness during the flu season. It contains three new influenza virus strains: A/Brisbane/59/2007 (H1N1)-like virus; A/Brisbane/10/2007 (H3N2)-like virus; and B/Florida/4/2006-like virus. The protection by the flu vaccine should last about a year.

In addition to getting a flu vaccination, persons 65 and older and those with chronic health conditions should ask their doctor if they should 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 physicians’ offices and county health departments.

For more information, please contact your doctor’s office or county health department.

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