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County says age limit on flu vaccine recipients lowered

December 17, 2004|STAFF REPORT

The Imperial County Public Health Department announced that the state public health officer has lowered the age limit of individuals who can receive a flu shot this season.

Adults ages 50 and older, emergency service workers and individuals who have regular contact with persons at high risk for serious complications from the flu are eligible to receive the vaccine.

The department also announced that FluMist, a nasal spray influenza vaccine, is available locally.

Due to the shortage of flu vaccine this year, flu shots have been restricted to those people at highest risk for serious complications from influenza.

FluMist contains a weakened form of live influenza virus instead of the killed virus that makes up the injected flu vaccine. Individuals who have no long-term health problems and are between ages 5 to 49 are eligible to receive the nasal spray vaccine.

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People with certain medical conditions, pregnant women or others at risk of influenza-related complications should not use FluMist. People with long-term health problems such as heart or lung disease, asthma, kidney disease, anemia, diabetes or other metabolic disorders or weakened immune systems due to HIV/AIDS or cancer treatments should not get the intranasal vaccine.

The flu shot is preferred over the intranasal vaccine for health-care workers or family members who are in close contact with anyone with a severely weakened immune system.

FluMist is an alternative to the flu shot available to healthy children and adults who have not been able to get a flu shot this year.

Flu shots and FluMist are available at the Imperial County Public Health Department on a walk-in basis from 8 a.m. to noon and from 1 to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, except holidays.

The cost for FluMist and the flu shot is $2. Flu shots also are available at scheduled senior clinics throughout Imperial County and with some health-care providers.

Imperial County Public Health Officer Dr. Stephen Munday states in a press release: "We are asking those individuals who are not considered high risk to receive FluMist and others who do fit a high-risk category to get a flu shot. It is important to keep in mind that flu vaccine can be given before or during the flu season. Getting vaccinated in December or later can still protect you against the flu."

Although the flu season can begin as early as October and last through April, most flu seasons do not peak until January. Last year the flu season hit earlier than in nearly three decades and some parts of the country had high levels of widespread flu infection.

In Imperial County, only a few positive cases have been reported by local hospitals this flu season. Local flu activity is similar to that occurring across the state and throughout the rest of the country.

The Imperial County Public Health Department has received 12,140 doses of flu vaccine this year, including doses through Vaccines for Children, a program that provides flu shots for low-income children. The Public Health Department has conducted two flu clinics for high-risk individuals to date at which public health nurses administered more than 1,200 flu shots.

A portion of the county's supply of flu vaccine was distributed to local health-care providers, including home health agencies, nursing homes, community clinics and private physicians.

People considered high-risk and are eligible to receive a flu shot are the following:

· all children ages 6-23 months;

· all adults 50 years of age and older;

· individuals ages 2-64 with underlying chronic medical conditions;

· all women who will be pregnant during influenza season;

· residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities;

· children ages 6 months to 18 years receiving chronic aspirin therapy;

· household contacts of persons belonging to any of the priority groups listed above;

· out-of-home caregivers and household contacts of children less than 6 months old;

· health-care workers involved with direct patient care; and,

· emergency service workers, such as law enforcement, firefighters and paramedics.

Typical flu symptoms include headache, fever, chills, cough, sore throat, body aches and often a prolonged cough. Although most people are sick for only a few days, some people have a much more serious illness, such as pneumonia and may need to be hospitalized.

People can protect themselves and reduce the spread of the influenza virus by doing the following:

· wash hands frequently with soap and water;

· avoid touching nose, eyes and mouth;

· cover mouth and nose with a clean tissue when coughing or sneezing and put used tissue in wastebasket; and,

· wear a surgical mask (if needed) to protect others.

The Imperial County Public Health Department's immunization program will be providing further updates and releasing any new information regarding the availability of flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available.

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