---- — CONCORD — The annual flu season is starting and the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services encourages all residents to be vaccinated against the flu, especially those who are at increased risk of complications. An annual flu vaccine is the first and best way to protect against influenza. DHHS last week announced the first case of influenza confirmed by the Public Health Laboratories this season.
“This positive lab result for influenza in a New Hampshire resident is slightly earlier than average but about the same time as last year,” said Dr. José Montero, public health director. “Every flu season is different and flu is very unpredictable, but I want to remind everyone that we had an unusually severe season last winter in New Hampshire and across the country. I encourage everyone to take steps now to get vaccinated and protect yourself and your loved ones for the season ahead.”
Influenza can be a serious disease of the lungs, nose, and throat. The illness is spread from person to person through coughing and sneezing.
Typical flu symptoms include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. An average of 25,000 people die each year in the United States due to influenza. Last year in New Hampshire, 44 deaths were reported, including three children.
The flu season usually lasts from October through May, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and DHHS recommend everyone who is at least 6 months of age be vaccinated as soon as they can early in the season. The vaccine is available in the traditional shot form for people 6 months of age and older. Flu vaccine in a nasal mist form is available for healthy people ages 2 to 49 years who are not pregnant.
School vaccination clinics have begun and New Hampshire plans to conduct up to 100 clinics this season.. Residents are encouraged to check with schools, pharmacies, their healthcare provider or wherever is the most convenient location to be vaccinated.
“It is important to understand that the vaccine itself does not give you the flu and that it is very safe,” Montero said. “It is especially important that certain targeted groups be vaccinated for their own safety; however, other groups, such as health care and child care providers, should receive the vaccine to protect others. Here in New Hampshire, 91 percent of hospital healthcare workers were vaccinated last year.”
While everyone should get a flu vaccine this season, it is especially important for some people to get vaccinated, including the following groups: children aged 6 months up to their 19th birthday; pregnant women; people 50 or older; people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, or chronic lung disease; people who live with or care for those at high risk of flu complications, including health care workers, household contacts of persons at high risk of complications from the flu, and household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children younger than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated).
For more information on influenza and the vaccine, contact the NH Immunization Program at 1-800-852-3345, Ext. 4482, or 271-4482 or the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at 1-800-852-3345, Ext. 0279, or 271-0279.
Visit the CDC website at cdc.gov for more information or the DHHS website at dhhs.nh.gov.