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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
October 03, 2005

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Gretchen Michael
(609) 984-7160


 
DHSS Urges High-Risk Individuals to Get Flu Shots First


 

The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) urges New Jersey residents who are at high risk of complications from flu to get a flu shot early in the season.

DHSS officials have also recommended that health care providers only give flu shots to individuals in high risk categories between now and October 24. That date is in keeping with guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and is meant to balance the needs of people who most need the vaccine with those who are otherwise healthy.

Up to 96 million doses of vaccine could be available in the U.S. this flu season. New Jersey’s share will be distributed through local sources, community health centers, private healthcare providers, local health departments, drug stores, supermarkets and senior centers.

DHSS Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D., said the expected supply indicates that all New Jerseyans who will want a flu shot can get one. “Getting a flu shot is a basic step that everyone should take to help avoid illness,” said Dr. Jacobs. “Because the strain of flu changes annually, it’s especially important to get a flu shot each year.”

Among the high risk groups are all children 6 to 23 months, as well as children 2 and older who have underlying illnesses. DHSS has already asked that school superintendents in New Jersey encourage parents to vaccinate these children before October 24, and healthy children afterward.

Others in the high risk, high-priority group include out-of-home caregivers of children age six months and under; adults with underlying illness; pregnant woman; people 65 and older; residents in long-term-care facilities; and healthcare personnel providing direct patient care.

Flu vaccine clinics usually start in October. Residents should call their local health department or check local newspapers for clinics in their area. Many large retailers will also be scheduling vaccination clinics after October 24.

October and November are traditionally considered the best months to get a flu shot, but protection is still adequate for those vaccinated later. Influenza typically occurs in New Jersey between October and early April and generally peaks in January and February, however it can peak earlier.

State Epidemiologist and Deputy Commissioner Dr. Eddy Bresnitz said that in addition to getting flu shots, people can take simple steps to avoid getting the flu.

“We always encourage people to use universal respiratory precautions to help prevent illness,” said Dr. Bresnitz. “That means people should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, wash their hands often and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth with unclean hands.”

Other precautions include staying home from school or work when sick, and avoiding close contact with people who are ill to reduce the spread of the flu.

Every year on average in the U.S. more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die from flu. Complications of flu could include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. Children could develop sinus problems and ear infections.

High-risk individuals should also get a pneumococcal vaccination from their health care provider to prevent this type of pneumonia, if they have not previously had this vaccine.

For more information on flu or flu clinics, call your local healthcare provider or local department of health (www.nj.gov/health/lh/directory/lhdselectcounty.htm), the DHSS Communicable Disease Service at (609) 588-7500 or visit www.nj.gov/health/flu.

 
 
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