Flu shots remain on hold

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 23, 2004

JACKSON – &uot;With the short supply of flu vaccines this flu season, we as a community are going to have to be more conscientious about our habits and physical contact,&uot; said Northampton County Health Director Sue Gay while addressing county commissioners here Monday.

On October 14, the Health Department received a notice restricting the administration of the influenza vaccine only to individuals in one of eight groups.

The groups, which were determined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, were prioritized to include:

* All children ages 6 months to 23 months.

* Adults 65 years of age or older.

* Persons age 2-64 years with underlying chronic medical conditions (chronic disorders of the pulmonary or cardiovascular systems, including asthma; required medical follow-up or hospitalization during the preceding year because of chronic metabolic diseases, including diabetes, kidney and blood disorders including sickle cell anemia or disorders of the immune system including HIV/AIDS).

* All women who will be pregnant during flu season.

* Residents of nursing homes and other chronic care facilities.

* Children age 6 months – 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy.

* Health care workers involved in direct patient care.

* Out of home care givers and household contacts of children less than six months.

&uot;This is a serious situation,&uot; said Gay, &uot;The hospitals have not received the vaccinations people need, so we have to make sure people take the proper precautions to avoid infection.&uot;

Gay explained that this year’s flu vaccines were in short supply as a result of samples that were unfit for distribution. &uot;We will have about half of the vaccine we were expecting to have,&uot; she said.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that can cause mild to severe illness and even lead to death with symptoms including fever (usually high), headache, extreme fatigue, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches and gastro-intestinal complications such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, which are more common in children than adults.

&uot;It is highly recommended to avoid close contact with those that are sick and maintain your distance from others when you are ill,&uot; said Gay. &uot;If you can stay home from work or school and avoid running errands while you are sick, it would help minimize the potential for spreading the germs.&uot;

Gay also emphasized covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and washing your hands frequently.

&uot;Illnesses are often passed around when a person touches their eyes, nose or mouth after touching something that is contaminated with germs,&uot; she said and suggested that citizens exercise a ‘thumbs up’ signal instead of shaking hands for the duration of the flu season to avoid perpetuating the illness to others. &uot;It might be good to use hand sanitizer as well as a precaution,&uot; she added.

According to the CDC, it is impossible to determine when the flu season will begin until after it has already started, although it typically runs from November to February.

Additional information on the flu can be found at www.cdc.gov. Questions regarding the flu shot should be directed to your local Health Department office.