New Hampshire Urges Residents: Don't Wait, Vaccinate

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The influenza vaccine is now available and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) Division of Public Health Services (DPHS) is encouraging all residents not to wait to be vaccinated. October is the time when people start planning to get vaccinated against influenza (flu). While you're planning, be sure to make an appointment for your entire family – your children and your parents.

"The flu can be a very serious illness," said DHHS Commissioner Nicholas Toumpas. "We are encouraging everyone to take precautions now to protect you and your loved ones against this potentially deadly disease. The best time to get vaccinated is between now through January. However, people in our region can still get the flu through late spring so the vaccine is available through the month of May."

On average, influenza causes 36,000 deaths each year in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has expanded its influenza vaccination recommendation to include healthy children and adolescents.

"It really is a good idea for most people to get a flu vaccine," stated Director of Public Health Dr Jose Montero. "Even if you are not in a high-risk group, you can carry the flu to someone who is at-risk. Throughout your circle of friends or people at work, there may be someone who falls into a group of people who are at risk if they get the flu."

Those most at risk include:

* Children 6 months - 4 years of age
* Women who will be pregnant during the influenza season
* People 50 years of age and older
* People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
* People who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities

People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu should also receive a vaccination. They include:

* Healthcare workers
* Household contacts of people at high risk for complications
* Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children younger than 6 months of age (since these children are too young to be vaccinated)

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Influenza vaccine does not cause the flu. There is no anticipated shortage of vaccine for the 2008-2009 season. Children and adolescents, 6 months of age through 18 years can receive an influenza vaccination through their medical provider at no charge.

You are also encouraged to take the following precautions to prevent becoming ill and spreading the flu and other illnesses this winter:

* Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

* Stay home when you are ill to avoid making others sick.

* Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you are coughing or sneezing—or cough or sneeze into your elbow—to avoid spreading germs.

* Wash your hands often to help avoid becoming sick.

* Refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth because hands are the best germ carriers.

* Practice good health habits, such as getting plenty of sleep, eating a healthy diet, being physically active, and drinking plenty of water.

* Ask the healthcare professionals on your medical "team" if they have had their flu vaccine this year. Healthcare workers should receive flu vaccine every year to protect their patients from getting the flu.

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