Concord, NH – The annual influenza (flu) season has begun and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) encourages all residents to consider getting immunized against the flu, especially those who are at increased risk of complications. An annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect against influenza. DHHS is also announcing the first case of influenza confirmed by the Public Health Labs (PHL).
“This lab test showing a case of influenza in New Hampshire is slightly earlier than usual,” said Dr. José Montero, “and it should serve as a reminder that it is time for people to get this year’s influenza vaccine. In New Hampshire, flu vaccine is still free for all children up through age 18.”
Influenza can be a serious disease of the lungs, nose and throat. The illness is spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing. Typical flu symptoms include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. An average of 25,000 people die each year in the United States due to influenza.
The flu season usually lasts from October through May, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DHHS recommend that people be vaccinated as soon as they can in the season. The vaccine is available in the traditional shot form for people six months of age and older. Flu vaccine in a nasal mist form is available for healthy people aged 2-49 years who are not pregnant.
“It is important to understand that the vaccine itself does not give you the flu and that it is very safe,” continued Dr. Montero. “It is especially important that certain targeted groups be vaccinated for their own safety; however, other groups, such as health care providers, should receive the vaccine to protect others. If you won’t do it for yourself, get vaccinated for someone you care for or about.”
The following groups are at increased risk and should be sure to receive a flu vaccine every year:
- Children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday
- Pregnant women
- People 50 years of age or older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, or chronic lung disease
- People who live with or care for those at high risk of flu complications, including: Health care workers
- Household contacts of persons at high risk of complications from the flu
- Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children younger than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)
- For more information on influenza and the vaccine, contact the NH Immunization Program at 800-852-3345 ext. 4482 or 603-271-4482 or the Communicable Disease Surveillance Section at 800-852-3345 ext. 0279 or 603-271-0279. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website at www.cdc.gov for more information or the DHHS website at www.dhhs.nh.gov. To get the flu vaccine, contact your healthcare provider or visit a local pharmacy.