|October 6, 2004||Influenza Web site|
FLU VACCINE RECOMMENDED FOR HIGH-RISK INDIVIDUALS
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Due to loss of about half of the vaccine supply to the United States, the Illinois Department of Public Health is recommending that health care providers use available supplies to vaccinate persons at high risk of complications from influenza and health care workers and care-givers who care for these persons.
British health authorities announced Tuesday that they have halted flu vaccine shipments by Chiron Corp., which was to produce between 46 to 48 million doses of influenza vaccine for the United States this flu season. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has announced that it is pursuing contingencies for this loss of supply.
“The flu is potentially serious and can even be deadly for the elderly and those at higher risk for medical complications,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “For that reason, we are asking that healthy people defer or forego getting vaccinated in order to ensure that the supply reaches those that are most vulnerable.”
Those considered to be at high risk for complications include:
Health care workers and care-givers are encouraged to use a nasal mist known as FluMist, which can be given to healthy individuals 5 to 49 years of age. However, direct care workers who care for immunocompromised patients in special care units should not get this alternative protection.
It is anticipated that 54 million doses of influenza vaccine from Aventis and another 1.1 million of FluMist nasal spray will be available. DHHS had planned for a vaccine supply of about 100 million doses this season, after a demand of about 87 million doses last flu season.
The influenza vaccine is 70 to 90 percent effective in preventing influenza among healthy adults 65 years of age or younger and those who do get ill will typically experience milder symptoms. People who are allergic to eggs, who have an acute illness with fever or who have previously had onset of Guillain-Barre syndrome during the six weeks after receiving influenza vaccine should check with their physician before getting the vaccine.
Dr. Whitaker advised those who are at high risk and considering a flu shot to check with their health care provider, local health department or other community provider on the availability of flu vaccine. Private health care providers purchase and administer 90 percent of the vaccinations and their supply is unknown.
Early estimates indicate that the Department’s vaccine order of 97,500 for the Vaccines For Children program will be reduced by at least one-third. Local health departments will continue to receive vaccine for eligible high-risk children 0 to 18 years of age as part of this program, but their orders will also be reduced because of the shortage.
The flu season usually runs from November until April and often peaks between January and March. While October and November is the best time to be vaccinated, a flu shot can be given any time during the flu season.
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.
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.
Even without being vaccinated, there are steps that can be taken to reduce transmission of flu:
Those who develop flu-like symptoms should drink fluids, rest and stay home. 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.
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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