Mississippi Kicks Off 2008 Flu Campaign

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The Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) will start offering flu shots this week at all county health departments. All Mississippians are encouraged to get a flu shot in order to protect themselves and their loved ones from the flu.

"Now is the time to get your flu shot in order to be protected in the coming months," said State Health Officer Dr. Ed Thompson. "The vaccine takes about two weeks to produce immunity, and although flu season usually peaks in January through March, it sometimes reaches high levels as early as December. Mississippians should take the threat of flu very seriously."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2007 36,000 deaths nationwide were attributed to flu and pneumonia. In Mississippi, 67 deaths were attributed to flu and pneumonia last year.

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The MSDH has ordered 187,000 adult and pediatric flu vaccine doses this year. The charge for flu vaccination is $25. Medicare Part B covers the cost of flu vaccination, so those with Medicare Part B should bring their cards with them to the clinic. Children ages six months through 18 years can receive flu vaccinations for $10 through the Vaccines for Children program.

Health officials monitor flu through the Influenza-Like Illness Sentinel System. This system includes healthcare providers throughout Mississippi such as family practice clinics, student health centers, pediatricians, infectious disease specialists and emergency medicine personnel, which report flu-like symptoms in a statewide database.

Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, and often, extreme fatigue. Sore throat, headache, muscle aches, and a runny or stuffy nose are also often present.

While shots are the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu. These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you are sick and washing your hands frequently.

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