|December 8, 2003||Influenza Web site|
EARLY INFLUENZA ACTIVITY INCREASES DEMAND FOR FLU VACCINE
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. -- With the occurrence of influenza activity earlier than usual in Illinois and across the country, there has been an increased demand for flu vaccine. Current reports indicate that most available supplies of vaccine have now been distributed to doctors, clinics, health departments and other providers, which is not unusual for this time of year. However, supplies of the live vaccine remain available.
The Illinois Department of Public Health is currently obtaining detailed information regarding the availability of vaccine throughout the state and will try to assist those local health departments experiencing a shortage.
High-risk individuals are encouraged to check on vaccine availability with their health care provider and, if no vaccine is available, to contact their local health department. Persistence will pay off in identifying locations where vaccination is available.
Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, said that healthy persons ages 5 to 49 wanting flu vaccine are encouraged to get the live vaccine. FluMist, which is sprayed into the nose, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this year.
"Use of this vaccine among healthy individuals will preserve supplies of the traditional injected vaccine for high-risk individuals," Dr. Whitaker said.
Although the flu season has started earlier than in previous years, Illinois is not experiencing the widespread flu activity that is occurring in other states. Currently, health officials have characterized influenza activity in Illinois as "regional," with cases confirmed in the Chicago metropolitan area and east central Illinois.
The licensed vaccine manufacturers in the United States have produced 83 million doses for meeting the demand of the 70 to 75 million Americans that normally receive the vaccine. Most of the available supply of doses of inactivated vaccine has been distributed to doctors, clinics, health departments and other providers. Remaining supplies of inactivated vaccine should be prioritized for use in high-risk individuals and health care workers.
High-risk individuals who should be vaccinated against influenza include:
In addition, those who care for or live with persons at high risk should get a flu shot, including:
Healthy children aged 6 months to 23 months, and caregivers of children younger than 6 months, are also encouraged to receive flu shots because children younger than 24 months may be at higher risk for complications from influenza.
Influenza, commonly called the flu, is caused by viruses that infect the respiratory tract and spreads from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Typical flu symptoms include fever (usually 100 degrees F in adults and often higher in children), dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue.
After a person has been infected with the virus, symptoms usually appear within one to four days. The infection is considered contagious for up to five days after symptoms appear and illness usually lingers for a week or two. Each year, an estimated 10 percent to 20 percent of the population contracts influenza.
Dr. Whitaker urges everyone to continue to take precautions to protect themselves and others from flu. "Wash your hands often and cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing," he said. "If you have flu symptoms, stay home." Those who develop flu-like symptoms should drink fluids, rest and stay home to avoid spreading the infection.
Those who have the flu may also take over-the-counter drugs such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen, but aspirin should be avoided because taking it for some forms of flu has been associated with Reye's Syndrome, a serious disease in children that can occur following a viral illness and that causes swelling of the brain. Prescription drugs also are available to treat influenza; they are most effective if taken within two days of developing symptoms. Antibiotics are not effective against viral diseases like flu.
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