Sick person

Oregon Health Authority officials are urging everyone, 6 months and older, to get immunized against the flu.

As the start of influenza season approaches, health officials are urging families to schedule appointments to get flu vaccines. The vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months and older.

What’s Ahead?

The flu vaccine may take up to two weeks to become effective, so getting it earlier in the season is ideal, OHA disease and vaccine experts say. While it’s difficult to know exactly how bad the flu season will be this year, OHA doctors say getting a flu shot is the best way to prepare for however it shapes up.

"They are the best protection against flu we have available," said OHA Public Health Physician Doctor Ann Thomas. "We can all do our part in keeping flu numbers down by getting a flu shot before the season really hits hard."

Flu vaccine is available from health care providers, local health departments and many pharmacies. The vaccine is free or low cost with most health insurance plans. To find flu vaccine clinic, visit http://www.flu.oregon.gov/ and use OHA’s flu vaccine locator tool.

What is Influenza?

Flu is a virus that causes mild to severe respiratory illness. In severe cases it can lead to hospitalization and even death. The virus kills thousands of people in the U.S. each year. People at higher risk of severe illness include children, adults older than 65, pregnant women and those with chronic medical conditions or weak immune systems. Oregon had two flu-related deaths of children during the 2017-2018 flu season.

Oregon Immunization Program data for the 2017-2018 flu season show that flu vaccination rates among some groups lag behind others. Officials worry that Latinos of all ages and African American seniors may be left unprotected if flu vaccination rates among the two groups do not increase. Latinos typically have high childhood immunization rates, yet only 39 percent of Latinos received a flu vaccine. African American seniors had a 61 percent vaccination rate compared to 73 percent for white seniors.

"It’s not clear why flu vaccination rates for these two groups are lower," OHA Immunization Program Manager Aaron Dunn said. "We want to call attention to it and hope our health partners will help us reach out to these groups to ensure everyone has an opportunity to get a flu vaccine."

Public health officials also encourage health care workers to get vaccinated for the flu. Immunized health care workers help prevent the spread of influenza in health care settings, particularly among hospitalized patients at high risk for complications from the flu such as the elderly, very young and those with some chronic illnesses. Data on 2016-2017 Oregon health care worker influenza vaccination rates are available on the OHA website at https://apps.state.or.us/Forms/Served/le8628.pdf.

The Oregon Health Authority reported the deaths of two children in the state due to complications of the flu last season. The flowing are warning signs to watch for.

Emergency Warning Signs

In children

• Fast breathing or trouble breathing

• Bluish skin color

• Not drinking enough fluids

• Not waking up or not interacting

• Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held

• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough

• Fever with a rash

In adults

• Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath

• Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen

• Sudden dizziness

• Confusion

• Severe or persistent vomiting

• Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough

In addition to the signs above, get medical help right away for any infant who has any of these signs:

• Being unable to eat

• Has trouble breathing

• Has no tears when crying

• Significantly fewer wet diapers than normal

Prevention

Additional ways people can help prevent flu:

• Stay home from work or school when you are sick and limit contact with others.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue out when you are done.

• Wash hands with soap and water. Use an alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water are not available.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.

• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may have flu germs on them.

• Avoid getting coughed and sneezed on.

See a short video about the flu and vaccination at https://youtu.be/So1W4pNJ8OM

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