NEWS

State opens 'fight flu' vaccination campaign

Tryve Brackin

The Department of Health and Hospitals last week kicked off its annual "Fight the Flu" campaign, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in recommending vaccinations for anyone over 6 months of age.

This year, said residents can protect themselves against both the seasonal flu and the H1N1 virus with a single vaccination.

Every year, millions of individuals contract the flu, with more than 36,000 people in the U.S. dying from this virus.

Flu season began last month, but Louisiana's flu activity doesn't peak until January.

Vaccination is especially critical for certain groups who are at higher risk of developing flu-related complications – children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old; adults 65 and older, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems or chronic medical conditions such asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease.

"Vaccination is also important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high risk individuals to keep from spreading flu to people who may be especially susceptible to the virus' effects. This includes anyone who works with babies younger than 6 months of age, who are not eligible for the vaccine themselves," said State Health Officer Jimmy Guidry. "This year's vaccine is plentiful and available at many places like health care providers, pharmacies, some employers and Louisiana's parish health units."

DHH also encourages the public to take preventive actions to stop the spread of the flu, such as using tissues to cover nose and mouth during coughs or sneezes and frequent hand washing.

The CDC recommends that anyone sick with a flu-like illness should stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medication. Those who are sick should avoid contact with others as much as possible.