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Be a flu fighter

Recommendations are expanded for those who should be vaccinated

September 27, 2010|By TIFFANY ARNOLD
  • This year's flu vaccine will include protection against last year's seasonal flu, the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus and a new strain known as A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2).
File photo,

Health officials expect flu season to be milder than last season's pandemic, but as in any flu season, the public is still being urged to get vaccinated.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved vaccines that will protect against last year's seasonal flu, the pandemic (H1N1) 2009 virus and a new strain known as A/Perth/16/2009 (H3N2). The vaccine approvals reflected the recommendations made by the World Health Organization.

People will receive protection from all three strains in a single formula, according to information provided by Shelly Burgess, an FDA spokeswoman. Last season, people had to get two separate flu vaccines - one to protect from seasonal flu and another to offer protection against the pandemic H1N1 strain initially dubbed swine flu, which emerged after the seasonal flu vaccines were made.

Last season, Washington County Health Department gave 5,740 seasonal flu doses and 10,560 H1N1 vaccine doses, according to Health Deparatment spokesman Rod MacRae.

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Maryland reported 46 deaths due to of complications associated with last season's H1N1, according to data from the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Preparations are already underway locally.

"We're not anticipating a resurgence of what we had last year," said Nancy Pearson, School Health Program supervisor for the Washington County Health Department.

Though the Health Department has not yet finalized its general vaccination dates, said MacRae, the department has been administering doses of FluMist nasal vaccine to elementary school students.

The vaccinations began Sept. 21 and will continue at 29 schools through Oct. 4. Pearson said the Health Department will make another round at least four weeks after the first vaccine doses are distributed.

During flu season, schools and child care settings are bastions of germ sharing. It's one of the reasons the health department has been targeting elementary school kids.

"When you can keep that population well, the older siblings and the parents who are home are not as likely to get sick," Pearson said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends that everyone 6 months or older receive an influenza vaccine, an expansion of the prior recommendation for adults 19 to 49, according to the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Vulnerable groups include adults older than 65, children younger than 2, and people with medical conditions that put them at higher risk for complications for the flu.

Children 6 months to 8 years old who are receiving a seasonal flu vaccine for the first time should receive two doses.

More information is available at CDC.gov/flu.

Resources



o Washington County Health Department flu hotline, 240-313-3456.

Find out about upcoming dates and locations of upcoming flu clinics for this year's flu season. You may also visit the Health Department's website, http://www.washhealth.org.

o The Washington County Health Department is coordinating with Washington County Public Schools to offer nasal FluMist influenza vaccines to children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade. Participation in the program is voluntary and students must receive parental permission to get the vaccine. The Health Department encourages parents to direct questions about the program to their children's schools.

o Maryland's Infections Disease and Environmental Health Administration website, EDCP.org/influenza/index.cfm, for information about seasonal flu.

o Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene H1N1 preparedness guide, http://www.dhmh.maryland.gov/swineflu, has interactive maps showing where to find vaccines, prevention measures and a common-sense symptoms checklist for children and adults.

o The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's influenza website, CDC.gov/flu. The latest information about the 2010-11 flu season, who should get the vaccine (the CDC recommends everyone 6 months or older) and a chance to test your Flu I.Q.

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