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Flu experts from WebMD and around the country share the latest information about influenza and flu season.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

It’s Not Too Late to Vaccinate

Our guest blogger is Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). As Secretary, she leads the principal agency charged with keeping Americans healthy, ensuring they get the health care they need, and providing children, families, and seniors with the essential human services they depend on. As the country’s highest-ranking health official, she has been charged by the President with coordinating the response to the 2009 H1N1 flu virus.

This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week, and it’s a great time to get vaccinated against the H1N1 flu.

Flu is unpredictable, and this flu season is far from over. Flu season typically lasts until May, and we don’t know whether there will be additional waves of flu illness. H1N1 is still circulating, it’s still dangerous, and there are still lives to be saved. That’s why it’s so critical for everyone to get vaccinated.

While over 60 million people have received the H1N1 vaccine, over three-fifths of Americans have not yet gotten it. It’s easy to find a flu vaccination location near you. Simply visit Flu.gov and type your zip code into the flu vaccine locator tool.

One of the many goals for this week is to engage at-risk, unvaccinated audiences who are concerned about vaccination or unsure about where to find vaccine. In an effort to reach more Americans, each day this week we will highlight the importance of getting a specific group vaccinated:

General Public and Health Care Workers
Monday, January 11 is the official vaccination day for both health care workers and the general public. Now that more H1N1 vaccine is available and high-risk groups have had the opportunity to get vaccinated, anyone 6 months or older in the general public is encouraged to get vaccinated against H1N1 flu. Health care workers are among those at higher risk of getting and spreading the flu.

People with Chronic Health Conditions
Tuesday, January 12 is the designated vaccination day for people with chronic health conditions. Because of their underlying conditions, they’re at higher risk of serious influenza-related complications. Those high-risk conditions include asthma, diabetes, heart disease, kidney and liver disorders, neurological disorders, blood disorders, cancer, HIV or AIDS, and others. The flu can make chronic health problems worse.

Children, Pregnant Women, and Families
Wednesday, January 13 will highlight the importance of getting H1N1 vaccine for pregnant women, children, and caregivers of children less than 6 months of age.

2009 H1N1 flu is very serious for these three groups. A woman who is vaccinated during her pregnancy can reduce the risk of influenza for her and for her baby. Children of all ages are at high risk for contracting the influenza illness, especially children under the age of two. The best way to protect these children is to make sure their caregivers and other adults and children who live with them get vaccinated.

Young Adults
Unlike seasonal flu, the H1N1 virus has spread quickly among young adults age 19 to 24. Thursday, January 14 will focus on vaccinating people in this age group. Young adults have been hit extremely hard by 2009 H1N1 this year. Since many young adults have regular contact with a large number of people – whether it’s their families, workplace, or classrooms – they are more likely to expose themselves and their loved ones to this virus. Vaccination is important not just for their health, but for the health of those around them.

Seniors
The CDC now recommends that senior citizens get the H1N1 flu vaccine. While seniors are less likely to be infected with the H1N1 virus than younger people, there have been severe infections and deaths from H1N1 in every age group, including people 65 and older. Friday, January 15 has been designated Seniors’ Vaccination Day, a reminder that older Americans who want to lower their risk of infection and flu-related complications should now get the 2009 H1N1 vaccine.

Thank you for helping us spread the word about National Influenza Vaccination Week. Together we can fight the flu, and keep our families, neighbors, coworkers, and communities healthy. If you would like to get involved in this event, visit the NIVW website.

Posted by: WebMD Blogs at 7:12 pm

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