For Immediate Release
Mike Heideman, KDHE, 785-296-4363
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) announced today that the first flu case of the 2008-2009 flu season has been identified in south-central Kansas. Health officials are reminding Kansans that if they’ve not already done so, they should get their yearly vaccination against the flu.
“Although we now know that flu has arrived once again in the state, flu activity is normally highest around February and influenza can continue to circulate through spring,” stated Sue Bowden, director of the Kansas Immunization Program. “It certainly is not too late to be vaccinated.”
Flu is a serious disease that can lead to complications such as pneumonia and even death. This year, more than 84 percent of the U.S. population is recommended to get immunized against the flu – that’s more than 4 out of 5 people. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has expanded the recommended ages for annual flu vaccination to include all children 6 months through 18 years of age as well as high risk groups. However, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting flu or of spreading it to a loved one should be vaccinated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), along with Families Fighting Flu, have developed a video, titled Why Flu Vaccination Matters, to spread the message that flu is a serious disease – one that can lead to death in otherwise healthy children. Visit http://www.familiesfightingflu.org/ for more information.
Pregnant women are another group at increased risk for the negative complications from influenza and are a group with low rates of flu vaccination. When an expecting mother is vaccinated, protection occurs for both the mother and unborn child. Anyone caring for, or in contact with an infant less than 6 months of age should be vaccinated since these babies are too young to be vaccinated themselves and are more vulnerable to complications from influenza disease. Parents, grandparents, siblings, babysitters, and contacts of infants should also be vaccinated against pertussis (whooping cough).
Healthcare workers are also an important group who should be vaccinated in order to reduce their risk of spreading the flu virus to the people in their care who are often more vulnerable to severe or even life threatening complications from the disease.
The CDC has identified four strains of influenza circulating in the U.S. so far this season. Resistance to the antiviral drug oseltamivir has been observed in one of the strains, influenza A(H1N1). However, the A(H1N1) virus has not shown resistance to zanamivir, which is another common antiviral drug. Antiviral drugs are prescription medications that can be used to treat people who already have the flu, in certain cases.
“Although antiviral medications can lessen the symptoms of flu after you’re infected, the best approach is to become vaccinated and avoid catching the flu in the first place. It’s not too late to vaccinate,” Bowden said.
For information on receiving the flu vaccine, please contact your family physician or local health department. Visit www.kdheks.gov/flu for more information.