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National Influenza Vaccination Week: December 8-14, 2013
Influenza, a common respiratory disease, is particularly dangerous for people with certain long-term health conditions that put them at “high risk” of suffering from serious flu complications. During the last flu season, about nine out of ten adults hospitalized with the flu had a long-term health condition; as did over half of the children who were hospitalized with the flu. The best way to prevent the flu among people with asthma, diabetes, chronic heart disease and other conditions that put people at risk of suffering complications from the flu, is to ensure that they and the people around them are vaccination against the flu.
Pregnant women are also more likely to become severely ill with the flu and have a higher risk of serious complications from the flu because pregnancy can reduce the ability of the lungs and the immune system to work normally. Babies younger than six months can also get very sick from the flu, but they are too young to get the flu vaccine. The best way to protect them is to ensure that their caregivers and close contacts are vaccinated, and for their mother to get the flu shot during pregnancy. When a mother gets a flu shot during pregnancy, she not only protects herself but she also protects her baby from the flu for up to 6 months after birth. The flu shot (not the nasal spray) is recommended for pregnant women during any trimester and is also the form of vaccination recommended for children between six months and two years of age.
Nevertheless, the flu can cause severe illness and even death for anyone, regardless of whether or not they are at “high risk.” Even healthy children and young adults can get very sick from the flu. Therefore, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that anyone six months of age and older be vaccinated against the flu. Getting a flu vaccine is easier than ever before. Vaccines are available in a variety of locations across West Virginia, such as local health departments, doctor’s offices, community health centers, pharmacies, and school-based health centers. For more information about the dangers of flu and the benefits and safety of the flu vaccine, talk to your healthcare provider or visit www.cdc.gov/flu or call 1-800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636).