We all have plenty to do this month as the holiday season descends upon us. Yesterday, the Rhode Island Department of Health (HEALTH) announced that the flu virus has officially arrived in Rhode Island this year and strongly encourages anyone who has not already received a flu shot this season to do so as soon as possible.
According to the Lifespan web site, flu affects between five and 20 percent percent of the U.S. population. Each year, 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and about 36,000 people die. You can get many more flu facts on the Lifespan site and on HEALTH’s site as well. The bottom line is flu is a serious illness, especially for the elderly, pregnant women or for anyone with a chronic long-term health condition or a weakened immune system. HEALTH reports that this year’s flu vaccine protects against both seasonal flu and H1N1.
Why are the holidays such a crucial time in the flu season? Director of HEALTH David Gifford, MD, MPH, says, “Many people travel to see family and friends during the holidays. Children are one of the primary spreaders of flu virus, so we recommend that all children age six months and older get vaccinated.” Gifford adds, “When children are vaccinated, there is a double benefit of keeping children healthy and preventing the spread of the flu virus no other family members. After you get a flu shot, it takes your body about 7-10 days to develop immunity to flu viruses, so getting vaccinated now will help to protect you before the holidays and before the brunt of the flu season illnesses are here.”
Flu vaccine for children, adolescents, and adults is available in physician offices, at pharmacies, public clinics and school-based flu vaccination clinics. HEALTH also reports that some children may need a second dose of flu vaccine, so it’s important to speak with your pediatrician.
Visit HEALTH’s web site for a list of public flu clinics, visit: . For more information about the flu or flu vaccine, you can call the HEALTH Information Line at 401-222-5960.