BATON ROUGE, La.—Today, the Department of Health and Hospitals officially kicked off its annual "Fight the Flu" campaign urging Louisianians in every corner of the state to get a flu vaccination. DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert reminded residents that a flu shot might be the difference between a happy or miserable holiday season.
"No one wants to be sick, especially during the holidays," said DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "If you travel, or have relatives coming to visit during the holidays, you need to be protected against the flu. You'll be thankful you got your flu shot. It's proven and effective in fighting seasonal flu and preventing the spread of this virus. We encourage everyone to get their seasonal flu shot to help protect not only themselves, but their families and friends as well."
Kliebert and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne led by example today, getting their flu shots during a news conference at the East Baton Rouge Parish Health Unit, while LSU baseball coach Paul Mainieri, who has already gotten his flu shot, provided support. Across the state, regional health leaders and local celebrities held vaccination kickoff events, encouraging residents to fight the flu.
The flu vaccine, which the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends for anyone older than six months, is the best protection against getting the flu. Healthy people between the ages of 2 and 49 - those who are not pregnant and do not have chronic illnesses - also have the option to get the live, attenuated vaccine through nasal spray. People should consult their health professionals about whether the shot or the nasal spray is better for them.
Flu vaccines have been given for more than 50 years, with hundreds of millions of flu vaccines safely administered. Flu vaccines are safe and are closely monitored by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration.
Every year, millions of individuals contract the flu, with more than 36,000 people in the U.S. dying from this virus and more than 200,000 going to the hospital. The flu is caused by the influenza virus, which is an infection of the respiratory system that causes fever, cough, sore throat, runny/stuffy nose, chills, fatigue and body aches. Most people who get the flu can treat their symptoms at home with rest and medication. But, for some people, the flu is a bigger threat and can cause more serious illnesses, such as pneumonia, or death.
Flu season began last month, but Louisiana's flu activity doesn't peak until January. This gives Louisianians enough time to get vaccinated. While everyone should get a flu vaccine, vaccination is especially critical for certain groups who are at higher risk of developing flu-related complications.
Groups considered at higher risk for flu complications include:
"Vaccination is also important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high risk individuals to keep from spreading flu to people who may be especially susceptible to the virus' effects," said State Health Officer Dr. Jimmy Guidry. "This includes anyone who works with babies younger than 6 months of age, who are not eligible for the vaccine, themselves."
Other people for whom vaccination is especially important are:
While the vaccine is the best protection, because the flu can spread from person-to-person through coughing, sneezing and casual contact, there are several preventive strategies everyone should practice to stop the spread of the flu. These include:
For more information on the flu and how to protect yourself, visit www.dhh.louisiana.gov/FightTheFlu.