Flu Season Started Early and May Be More Severe Than Recent Past Seasons
December 6, 2012
Department of Health Encourages People to Get Vaccinated Now
(Santa Fe) – The New Mexico Department of Health has confirmed that influenza is circulating throughout the state and recommends that everyone six months of age and older get vaccinated against the flu now to protect themselves, their families, and their communities.
Flu season started earlier this year than has been seen in the U.S. in nearly ten years, including in New Mexico. The number of people being seen by healthcare providers in New Mexico for influenza-like illness has increased over the past two weeks.
Testing by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is showing that this season’s influenza vaccine is a good match to the influenza viruses that people throughout the U.S. have had so far. The main type of influenza that has been seen (H3N2) is a type that typically is more severe than other types. Higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths have been seen during past H3N2 seasons.
“Even though flu season has arrived, it is not too late to get vaccinated,” said Department of Health State Epidemiologist Michael Landen, M.D., MPH. It is especially important for adults over 65 years of age, children 6 months through 4 years of age, pregnant women, and everyone with certain underlying health conditions to get vaccinated as soon as possible.”
Healthcare providers, pharmacists, and public health offices have vaccine available. The New Mexico Department of Health has distributed vaccines to approximately 500 Vaccines for Children providers: the New Mexico Vaccines for Children Program assures that all children through 18 years of age receive recommended vaccines, including yearly flu vaccines. New Mexico Department of Health public health offices have flu vaccines available for persons at high risk for serious flu illness and people with no health insurance.
Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine each flu season, especially people in the following groups because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications:
· Children 6 months through 4 years of age
· Pregnant women (any trimester)
· People age 50 and older
· People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, lung or heart disease, and those who are immunocompromised
· 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
· American Indians and Alaskan Natives
· People who are morbidly obese
· Healthcare personnel
Also remember that to avoid catching the flu or passing it on to others, everyone should wash their hands frequently, cover their mouth and nose when sneezing or coughing, and stay home when ill.
The Department of Health does not track every case of flu in New Mexico. The Department receives weekly reports from 26 healthcare provider sites and 32 clinical laboratories to monitor the amount of influenza-like illness being seen by providers and positive flu reports from laboratories, and also monitors flu-related hospitalizations in seven counties and flu-related deaths statewide.
Public health offices are listed in the phonebook’s blue pages under state government. Contact information for public health offices is also listed at www.nmhealth.org <http://www.nmhealth.org> .
As the flu season progresses, you can find information about the flu and flu clinics by calling toll-free at 866-681-5872 or by visiting www.immunizenm.org/flu.shtml <http://www.immunizenm.org/flu.shtml>