PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
December 8, 2014

Mary E. O'Dowd, M.P.H.
Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Office of Communications
(609) 984-7160

New Jersey Department of Health Encourages Residents to Get A Flu Vaccine

National Influenza Vaccination Week is December 7-13, 2014

The New Jersey Department of Health is reminding residents that it is not too late to get a flu vaccine.  Flu activity usually peaks between December and February, but it can last as late as May. As long as flu viruses are spreading and causing illness, vaccination can provide protection again the flu and should continue throughout the season.

National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW), December 7-13, 2014, is an opportunity to highlight the importance of receiving a yearly flu vaccine.

"Influenza can have serious complications, especially for older people, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions," said Health Commissioner Mary E. O'Dowd. "Get vaccinated to protect yourself and your loved ones during the holiday season."

Flu vaccination is recommended every season for everyone six months of age and older. For people at high risk, getting sick with the flu can mean developing complications like pneumonia, or a worsening of existing health conditions, which can lead to hospitalization or death. People at high risk include young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease, and people age 65 years and older. Some children younger than nine years may need two doses of vaccine to be fully protected. Your child's health care provider can tell you whether two doses are recommended for your child.

Flu vaccination should also be a priority for people who live with or care for persons who are vulnerable to flu-related complications. This includes healthcare personnel and household contacts of children younger than six months of age.

Every flu season is unpredictable, but across the country and in New Jersey, public health officials are concerned that this flu season could be more severe than most. The Department is monitoring the circulation of influenza closely to determine the impact the flu will have on our residents. New Jersey is seeing moderate activity which is normal for this time of the year, but Influenza A (H3N2) viruses are dominating this early part of the flu season.  Typically, the Type A strain known as H3N2 is more severe with higher numbers of hospitalizations and deaths. Last week, the CDC announced that roughly half of the H3N2 viruses analyzed are viruses with antigenic or genetic changes that make them different from that season's vaccine virus. This means the vaccine's ability to protect against those viruses may be reduced, but there are other strains of the flu circulating that the vaccine will protect against. If vaccinated people do get the flu, they may have a milder case of the flu.

Vaccination is still the best way to protect against the flu. Patients with flu symptoms should talk to their health care providers about antivirals which shorten the length of illness.

"Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors' visits, absenteeism from work or school, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths," said Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Arturo Brito. "Even unvaccinated people who have already gotten sick with flu can still benefit from vaccination since the flu vaccine protects against the different viruses expected to circulate each season."

There are many choices available for flu vaccine, both in terms of the types of vaccines available and the different locations offering the vaccine. Flu vaccines are available that protect against three ("trivalent") or four ("quadrivalent") different flu viruses. Consult with your healthcare provider to determine the best option for you. For more information about the different types of flu vaccine offered, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm.

Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctors' offices, clinics, health departments, retail stores and pharmacies. New Jersey residents can visit the Flu Vaccine Finder https://nj.gov/health/flu/findflushot.shtml to find flu clinics near them.

As part of National Influenza Vaccination Week, the Department will have a table with education information at the Middlesex County Health Department Flu Clinic on December 8 in New Brunswick and will provide free "Flu and You" books for  the first 150 children vaccinated.
Since vaccination activity tends to drop quickly after the end of November, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) established NIVW in 2005 to highlight the importance of continuing flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond.

Along with vaccination, the Department emphasized that there are other steps to take to prevent the spread of illness:
·        Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
·        Cover your coughs and sneezes.
·        Stay home if you are sick.

For millions of people each year, the flu can bring a fever, cough, sore throat, muscle aches, and fatigue. For more information about NIVW, please visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/nivw/index.htm.

Last Reviewed: 12/8/2014