The nation's infectious disease experts are reminding all Americans to get vaccinated against influenza this flu season. National Influenza Vaccination Week is Nov. 27 through Dec. 3.
"The flu vaccine is the best thing you can do to protect yourself and the ones you love from influenza," said Henry Masur, MD, president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). "The holidays should be a joyous occasion for spending time with family and friends. You can't afford to spend a week or more lying flat on your back with a fever, aches, and pains. Make sure that immunization is on your list of things to do this holiday season."
Although most people tend to get the flu vaccine in early fall, infectious disease experts note that fall is just the beginning of influenza season. Flu season typically does not peak until February or later, so November, December, and beyond are still good times to be vaccinated.
Despite some delays in distribution, the vaccine supply is expected to reach an all-time high this flu season. Vaccinations are recommended for anyone who wants to decrease the risk of influenza. "When you get a flu vaccine, you're not only protecting yourself, but you're also protecting your family, friends, and neighborsmany of whom may be in high risk groups," said William Schaffner, MD, a member of IDSA's Immunization Work Group. "We help ourselves and we help each other when we immunize."
Immunization is particularly important for people over age 50, those with chronic illnesses (such as heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, or diabetes), and pregnant women because they are at highest risk for complications of flu. Those who are in close contact with high-risk peopleespecially health care workers, people who share the same household, and caregiversare also urged to get their flu vaccines.
"Health professionals in particular should make a special effort to be immunized against influenza. They owe it to themselves, and they owe it to their patients," said Masur.
Children aged 24 months to 59 months also should be immunized since they are more likely than older, healthier children to see a doctor or go to the emergency room if they get the flu.
Some people mistakenly believe that they can get the flu from a flu vaccine. "That is a myth that needs to be dispelled," said Schaffner. In fact, although minor complications can occur, the flu vaccine is extremely safe, and the benefits far outweigh the risks, he said.
National Influenza Vaccination Week is a collaborative effort of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Influenza Vaccine Summit. For more information, go to www.cdc.gov/flu. For more information about immunizations, visit the National Network for Immunization Information at www.immunizationinfo.org.
Source: Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)