State urges residents to get flu shot as flu season arrives

CONCORD — The flu results in approximately 12,000 to 56,000 deaths every year in the United States, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As we enter another flu season, the state Department of Health and Human Services  is urging all residents ages si6x months and older to get a flu shot to prevent influenza infection and associated complications.

“We know that the influenza virus is already beginning to circulate in our communities and cause illness. The best thing people can do to stay healthy and prevent infection during flu season is to get vaccinated against influenza,” said N.H. State Epidemiologist Dr. Benjamin Chan. “Even if a person got the flu shot last year, protection against infection decreases over time and the specific types of circulating influenza virus can change, so individuals need to get re-vaccinated every year to maintain protection against the flu.”

Flu season usually lasts from September through May and several cases of the influenza virus infection have already been identified in the state. If a person has not yet received the influenza vaccine, DHHS recommends getting vaccinated now. The CDC recommends that individuals should ideally be vaccinated by the end of October, although the vaccine is recommended as long as influenza is circulating. The flu vaccine is safe and does not cause the flu. The influenza virus can infect the nose, throat, and lungs causing serious disease. The infection is spread when a person with flu coughs, sneezes or talks; and infection can be spread even before an infected person has symptoms. Typical flu symptoms include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches.

Last year, there were 47 influenza-related deaths, including two pediatric deaths, identified in New Hampshire. The CDC estimates that in the United States during the 2015-2016 season, the influenza vaccine prevented more than 5 million flu illnesses, 2.5 million influenza-associated medical visits, and more than 70,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations. This year’s vaccine has been modified to match circulating flu viruses, including an updated H1N1 strain. The nasal spray flu vaccine is still not recommended this year as the CDC has determined it is not as effective as the injectable vaccine.

While everyone 6 months of age and older who doesn’t have a medical contraindication should get a flu vaccine, it is especially important for some groups who either care for persons at high risk for influenza-related complications (e.g., health care personnel) or who are at an increased risk for flu complications themselves. Person who are increased risk for medical complications from flu include:

• Children younger than 5, and especially those younger than 2 years of age.

• Pregnant women (and women up to two weeks postpartum).

• Adults 50 years of age or older.

• People who are immunosuppressed.

• People with certain chronic medical conditions, including asthma, heart disease, diabetes, chronic lung disease, kidney or liver disease, or who are extremely obese.

• Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

For more information on influenza and the vaccine, contact the N.H. Immunization Program at 1-800-852-3345 x 4482 or 603-271-4482 or the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at 1-800-852-3345 x 0279 or 603-271-0279 or go to dhhs.nh.gov/dphs/cdcs/influenza and www.cdc.gov/flu.