Monday, October 20, 2008
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Flu season reminder

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[October 20, 2008]  CHICAGO -- With flu season quickly approaching, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Damon T. Arnold is reminding Illinoisans to take precautions to help prevent influenza and stay healthy.

The Illinois Department of Public Health, local health departments, doctors' offices and clinics in Illinois are currently receiving this year's influenza vaccine from manufacturers. Influenza vaccine manufacturers report they expect to produce a record supply of vaccine this year, between 143 million and 146 million doses, making it possible for more people than ever to seek protection from the flu.

Along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state of Illinois is now recommending that children age 6 months through age 18 should receive a flu shot.

"Taking the right steps this fall will mean less chance of becoming ill when flu season is upon us. It is important for our most vulnerable citizens -- the young, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems -- to get a flu shot this fall. It is also important for people who live with or care for individuals at high risk for serious complications from flu to get immunized," said Dr. Arnold.

"In an effort to keep Illinois healthy, we are working with local health departments to continue educating people about the importance of getting flu shots. Now until mid-November is the best time to get a flu shot, but immunization beyond that point is also encouraged. Start checking with your doctor or local health department about upcoming flu vaccination clinics and availability."

Influenza, commonly called "the flu," is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the influenza virus. Compared with most viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, influenza infection often causes a more severe illness. Typical influenza illness includes fever (usually 100 to 103 degrees F in adults and often even higher in children) and respiratory symptoms, such as cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, as well as headache, muscle aches, and extreme fatigue.

Most people who get the flu recover completely in a week or two, but some people develop serious and potentially life-threatening medical complications, such as pneumonia.

Flu-related complications can occur at any age, but the elderly and people with chronic health problems are much more likely to develop serious complications after influenza infection than are young, healthier people.

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To reduce the risk of getting the flu, it is important to take precautions and practice good hygiene. Make sure to avoid close contact with people who are sick; stay home when you are sick; cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing; wash your hands and avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; and get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

Anyone who wants to reduce his or her risk of getting influenza should get an annual flu shot. Vaccination is particularly important, though, for certain people at risk of complications from influenza or those who live with or care for people at high risk for serious complications, including the following:

  • Children 6 months through 18 years of age

  • Pregnant women

  • People 50 years of age and older

  • People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions

  • People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

  • People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including health care workers, household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated)

The single best way to prevent the flu is to get a flu vaccination each fall.

[Text from Illinois Department of Public Health file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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