With the West Nile virus receiving a great deal of attention lately, local and state public health agencies emphasize the importance of people not overlooking a greater health risk, the flu.
Annually across the United States, millions of people get the flu, resulting in approximately 114,000 hospitalizations and 20,000 deaths.
The flu vaccine is the best tool to prevent death and severe illness from influenza among the elderly and chronically ill, stress public health officials.
State and local public health departments are preparing for the upcoming flu season and expect vaccine supplies to be sufficient if Utahns follow current recommendations.
Until now, the vaccine has been available only to individuals who are at high risk of suffering complications due to the flu virus. But starting in November, Carbon County residents may visit Southeastern Utah Health District and receive the vaccine.
During a normal influenza season, the best time to vaccinate is in the months of October and November, especially for persons who are at highest risk for complications.
Utah's flu season typically runs from November through March with peak levels in January and February.
Influenza vaccine clinics will focus on providing the preventative injections to Carbon County residents who are at greatest risk for complications from influenza infections and the individuals in close contact with the designated groups.
The following groups residing in the Carbon County area should be vaccinated for the flu as soon as possible:
Persons 65 years of age and older.
Residents of nursing homes and chronic-care facilities of any age who suffer from long-term illnesses.
Health care workers.
Household contacts and individuals who can transmit influenza to people classified at high risk.
Adults and children more than 6 months of age who have chronic heart or lung conditions, including asthma.
Adults and children more than 6 months old who need regular medical care or had to be hospitalized because of metabolic disorders like diabetes, chronic kidney disease or weakened immune systems, including problems caused by medications or infection with human immunodeficiency virus.
Children and youth 6 months to 18 years of age who are on long-term aspirin therapy and, therefore, could develop reye syndrome after having the flu.
Women who will be more than three months pregnant during the flu season.
Beginning in 2000, vaccinations were recommended for people 50 to 64 years old due to the number of high risk adults in the designated age group. People in the age group without chronic medical conditions may not be at high risk from the flu virus. But about 26 percent of individuals ages 50 to 64 have high risk conditions and are at increased risk for serious flu-related complications.
Last spring, the influenza vaccination was also recommended for healthy children from 6 to 23 months of age.
Children less than 9 years old who receive vaccine for the first time need a booster dose after one. Parents should check with their health care provider to discuss annual influenza vaccination of healthy children in these age groups.
The department of health recommends that high risk individuals also receive the pneumonia vaccine because pneumonia is a life threatening complication resulting from influenza.
A pneumonia vaccine can be administered year round and is usually given just once in a lifetime.
For more information regarding influenza and pneumonia vaccinations, contact a health care provider or the Southeastern Utah Department of Health at 637-3671.