Protect yourself this influenza season with a flu vaccination
Mary E. O'Dowd
New Jersey Health Commissioner
Like most of the nation, New Jersey is experiencing widespread flu activity. The good news is that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is reporting that the flu vaccine is a very good match for the strains of flu we are seeing in the community and early data indicates that individuals who are vaccinated have been 62 percent less likely to visit a doctor due to illness from the flu.
The most important step residents can take to protect themselves and their families against infection is by receiving the influenza vaccination. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year and it is not too late to get vaccinated. Typically, we see the flu season peak in January and February-however the season can last through April-so it is not too late for the vaccine to be helpful.
Residents can find flu clinics by visiting the Department's website at nj.gov/health and click on the "Find a Find a Flu Shot Locator" icon. This locator allows residents to search clinics by zip codes. To ensure flu vaccine is available at a given site, residents should call ahead. Parents who have difficulty locating vaccine for children under 18 may be able to access vaccine at local pharmacy walk-in medical clinics. Pharmacists cannot vaccinate anyone under 18 years of age: however, CVS Minute Clinics are staffed with nurse practitioners and physician assistants who may be able to vaccinate the preschool/childcare population. Consumers should access the CVS Minute Clinic website for locations and detailed information about the populations these clinics serve: http://www.minuteclinic.com/.
A flu shot is especially important for certain groups of individuals who are at higher risk of developing serious flu-related complications. These groups include: pregnant women, children under the age of 5, but especially younger than 2 years old, people 65 years of age and older, and people with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, heart disease, cancer, diabetes and HIV). Vaccination also is important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from the flu.
There are some very simple preventive steps that everyone can take to stop the spread of influenza:
Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
Those who do get the flu should stay home for at least 24 hours after a fever is gone (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine)-except to get medical care. For more tips on what to do if you get sick visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm">http://www.cdc.gov/flu/takingcare.htm.
Under the leadership of Governor Chris Christie, the Department of Health continues to monitor flu activity in our state closely and works to prepare our state for any possible changes in flu viruses circulating. Residents can do their part in stopping the spread of flu by practicing common sense measures like covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands often and receiving a flu shot. Don't take a chance with your health, get vaccinated.