Health officials urge flu vaccinations

LOS ANGELES - County health officials are recommending residents be vaccinated soon in time for end-of-year celebrations and gatherings.Los Angeles County is currently seeing a slight increase in cases of influenza, including strains that were not included in vaccines from previous seasons but can be protected against with this year's vaccine. "It is important for residents to get a new flu vaccine every season to ensure continuous protection," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, director of public health for L.A. County. "A look at flu activity in L.A. County and across the nation finds that this year's vaccine is an excellent match in protecting against currently circulating flu strains." Influenza accounts for up to 200,000 hospitalizations and an average of 24,000 deaths each year in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, headache and muscle ache within the first three to five days of illness. "It's never too late to vaccinate against the flu," Fielding said. "This is a serious illness, and getting either the flu shot or the nasal spray vaccine is a safe and effective way to avoid influenza. "Keep in mind that it takes approximately two weeks to develop full immunity against the flu after you receive your vaccine," Fielding continued. "There, we encourage everyone who is eligible to get their flu vaccine as soon as possible." While an influenza vaccine is now recommended for everyone (except infants under six months old), certain groups are at greater risk of developing complications from the flu. These groups are pregnant women; children younger than 5; adults 50 and older; people of any age with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes; people who live in nursing homes; and people live with, or care for, those persons at high-risk.

********** Published: December 9, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 34