For Immediate Release
January 15, 2010

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

Seniors Encouraged to Receive H1N1 Flu Vaccine

National Influenza Vaccination Week is Jan. 10-16

January 10-16 is National Influenza Vaccination Week, and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is encouraging seniors to get vaccinated against H1N1.

“People over the age of 65 are actually at lower risk of catching the pandemic H1N1 flu virus,” said Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, Kansas State Health Officer and Director of the Division of Health at KDHE. “As is the case with other flu viruses however, seniors have a higher risk of developing complications if they do indeed catch this virus.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), laboratory tests conducted on blood samples indicate that some older people probably have some pre-existing immunity to the 2009 H1N1 flu virus. But while people 65 and older are less likely to be infected, those that do are at greater risk of having serious complications from their illness. There have been severe H1N1 infections and deaths in every age group, including among older people.

“If you’re 65 or older, seek medical advice right away if you develop flu symptoms to find out if you might need treatment with prescription antiviral medications,” stated Roderick L. Bremby, Secretary of KDHE. “People 65 and older are prioritized to get antiviral drugs if they become sick with the flu.”

Influenza antiviral medications are prescription drugs (pills, liquid, or inhaled powder) that can treat flu illness. These drugs decrease the ability of flu viruses to reproduce in the body. While getting vaccinated is the first and most important step in preventing the flu, antiviral drugs are a second line of defense for treating severe cases of flu.

Since October 1, the Kansas Immunization Program (KIP) at KDHE has facilitated the shipment of more than 868,000 doses of vaccine to public health departments, health care providers and retail pharmacies across the state. Up-to-date information on H1N1 vaccination clinics being held in Kansas can be found by going to www.kdheks.gov and clicking on “Where can I receive the H1N1vaccine?”

The symptoms of infection with the pandemic H1N1 virus are similar to the symptoms of seasonal flu and include fever of 100 degrees or greater, body aches, coughing, sore throat, respiratory congestion, and in some cases, diarrhea and vomiting.   

KDHE has established a phone number for concerned Kansans to call with questions about the 2009 H1N1 influenza A virus.  The toll-free number is 1-877-427-7317.  Operators will be available to answer questions from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.  Persons calling will be directed to press “1” on their touch-tone phone to be directed to an operator who can answer questions. Kansans can also email H1N1fluinfo@kdheks.gov, or visit www.kdheks.gov.