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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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Health department reminds residents of importance of annual flu vaccine

Health department reminds residents of importance of annual flu vaccine

With flu season starting, the Louisiana Department of Health reminds all residents of the importance of getting an annual flu vaccine.

The flu causes approximately 500 deaths and nearly 3,000 hospitalizations each year in Louisiana, and tens of thousands of deaths in the U.S.

“We’re seeing flu activity early this year and an annual flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu, which can be very serious even deadly,” said Dr. Rebekah Gee, secretary of the Louisiana Department of Health. “Flu shots have been proven time and time again to be both safe and effective, and I encourage everyone to take this important step to protect their communities this flu season.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Louisiana Department of Heath recommend a yearly flu shot for everyone over six months of age who does not have a complicating condition, such as a prior allergic reaction to the flu shot.

While recommended for everyone, getting a flu shot is especially crucial for people who may be at higher risk for serious complications. This includes babies and young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions and people 65 years and older.

Symptoms of the flu include fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches and nausea. Vomiting and diarrhea also can occur and are much more common among children than adults.

The main way the flu is spread from person to person is through the coughs and sneezes of an infected person. A transfer can also occur when a person touches their own nose or mouth after coming into contact with infected droplets, nose drainage or saliva from an infected person.

Washing your hands is the best way to prevent the spread of the flu after such contamination. Teaching your child to cover his or her nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing and to wash his or her hands immediately after coming into contact with any infected fluids, including their own, will help them keep both themselves and others safe from infection.

Newly infected adults and caregivers are able to spread the flu as early as one day before showing symptoms and will continue to be contagious up to seven days after the symptoms have begun.

Dr. Frank Welch, medical director for the Louisiana Department of Health Immunization Program, said while the flu shot protects individuals from getting the flu, it also keeps people from spreading it to others who are more vulnerable.

“Some people are not eligible for a flu shot, which makes it especially important that others in the community get vaccinated,” Welch said. “Although a young, healthy person might not get very sick from the flu, they can be a carrier and pass it on to someone in a high-risk group who might become seriously ill.”

Welch added the flu shot is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women, who can pass on antibodies to their babies that will help protect them.

The flu shot starts to offer partial protection immediately, but takes about two weeks to offer full protection. Flu shots are now available at local pharmacies, clinics, doctor’s offices and federally qualified (community) health centers. Check for a flu shot provider near you. Visit for more information and resources.

The nasal flu spray has been shown to be ineffective over the past several years, and is no longer recommended by the CDC.