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Get Ready For Flu Season

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

Flu season is beginning and health officials encourage the public to get vaccinated early. Vaccine is arriving at numerous locations, including grocery stores and health care providers. This year's vaccine is in plentiful supply and is formulated to protect against three new strains of the virus.

According to the Oregon Department of Human Services Public Health Division, nearly 450 Oregonians die of influenza every year. Influenza and related pneumonia is the number one cause of death from infections in Oregon. Nationally, more than 220,000 people are hospitalized with flu complications and flu kills more than 36,000 people annually.

"It is especially important to get vaccinated if you are at greater risk of developing serious flu-related complications, such as pneumonia," says Paul Lewis, M.D., Deputy Tri-County Health Officer. Groups at higher risk include children aged 6 months to 5 years, pregnant women, people 50 years of age and older, people with chronic medical conditions, and anyone living in a nursing home or long-term care facility.

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This year, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children from 6 months to 18 years receive flu shots. Children are twice as likely to get influenza as adults. Caregivers, family members, and those who work with higher risk groups are also encouraged to be immunized.

Influenza vaccine provided to a pregnant woman may benefit both mothers and their young infants, according to a recent study by researchers of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. Researchers found that babies born to vaccinated mothers had a 63 percent lower risk of laboratory-confirmed influenza compared to babies whose mother had not received a flu shot.

Pneumonia (pneumococcal disease) is a leading complication associated with seasonal flu. Some types of pneumonia can be prevented by vaccines. Talk with your doctor about which pneumonia vaccine especially if you are older that 65 or have lung disease, heart trouble or other chronic medical conditions.

Health officials remind the public to practice "good health manners" to prevent transmission of disease. "We encourage everyone to cover your cough and wash hands often. If you are sick, please stay home, and if your children are sick please keep them out of school or child care," says Lewis.