Don't Let Influenza Ruin Your Holidays
With the hectic holiday season in full swing, getting vaccinated against influenza, commonly known as "the flu," is an important way to keep you and your family healthy. Too many people think influenza vaccination is only effective if done in October and November, but the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases (NFID) is reminding Americans that getting vaccinated throughout the winter months is beneficial and critical to stopping the spread of this disease. With a record number of doses and numerous opportunities to get vaccinated -- from doctor's offices to local health departments and clinics to shopping malls -- getting vaccinated is more convenient than ever before, even for busy holiday shoppers.
More than 218 million Americans are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for influenza vaccination, but vaccination rates in the United States remain shockingly low -- with more than one-third of Americans 65-plus, one of the highest risk groups, skipping vaccination each year. Every year, the demand for influenza vaccine plummets after Thanksgiving, leaving many Americans unprotected from the disease, including those at highest risk for serious complications.
"Even though Thanksgiving is behind us, taking the necessary steps to protect yourself from influenza should continue," says Susan J. Rehm, MD, Medical Director, NFID. "But the longer you wait, the more you put yourself, and others, at risk for the disease and its serious complications. Getting vaccinated is an important and easy way to keep the entire family healthy this holiday season and in 2008."
Vaccination Is Critical For At-Risk Groups
Influenza is a serious disease that causes illness for adults and children alike and may even cause death. NFID believes that influenza vaccination rates need to increase across all groups but particularly for those at high risk for influenza-related complications, including children 6 months up to 5 years old, adults 50+, pregnant women, people with certain chronic medical conditions and close contacts of these at-risk groups, which includes health care workers, family members and other caregivers. In addition, anyone wishing to reduce their risk for influenza, including school age children, should get vaccinated.
"Getting vaccinated against influenza is the safest and most effective way to maintain good health and avoid spreading the infection to others who may be more vulnerable to the disease," says Dr. Rehm. "By stepping up to get your influenza vaccination, you are helping to maintain the health of your entire community."
Influenza is a contagious virus that infects the respiratory tract (nose, throat, lungs). Influenza symptoms can include fever (usually high), dry cough, headache, runny or stuffy nose, sore throat and muscle aches. It also can cause extreme tiredness that may last days or weeks.
The virus is easily spread from person to person, primarily when an infected individual coughs or sneezes, and can be passed on to others before symptoms appear and for many days after.
Although vaccination is the first line of defense against influenza, prescription antiviral medications may be helpful in preventing and controlling the spread of influenza. Antivirals can also be used for those who cannot receive influenza vaccine because of egg allergies.