Influenza and pneumonia claims the lives of more than 1,500 Kansans every year, and is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable death in the United States. Each year, between 15 million and 60 million people in the U.S. are infected, about 200,000 are hospitalized and about 36,000 die each year from influenza and its complications.
December 8-12 is National Influenza Vaccination Week. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend receiving the yearly flu vaccination, which is considered the best way to reduce the risk of catching the flu or developing serious complications.
“There is still time during the flu season for the vaccine to prove beneficial since the peak of disease occurrence doesn’t occur until February or March,” said Sue Bowden of the Kansas Immunization Program. “Almost anyone can get a flu vaccination, which is especially important for protecting those who are most vulnerable to severe effects of the disease, such as younger children and the elderly.”
For the first time, KDHE and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are recommending that all children and teens ages 6 months through 18 years be vaccinated. People recommended for vaccination during the 2008-09 flu season include:
§ Anyone who wants to reduce their risk of becoming ill with the flu, or reduce their risk of spreading the flu to others
§ Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday
§ Pregnant women
§ People 50 years of age and older
§ People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions or impaired immunity
§ People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
§ People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:
o Health care workers
o Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu
o Household contacts and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, and muscle aches. Complications can include pneumonia, ear and sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of other chronic conditions.
For more information about flu, please visit www.kdheks.gov/flu/ or www.cdc.gov/flu/.