The Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH) and the Pediatric Healthcare Improvement Coalition of Georgia (PHIC) encourage all parents to fully vaccinate their children, ages six months and older, each year against influenza (flu). More broadly, all adults 18 years of age and older, should receive an annual flu vaccine to protect themselves and to prevent transmission of this illness to children in their home.
During Georgia’s last flu season, five children died and hundreds were hospitalized. It was the worst flu season in the state on record. Nationally, 177 children died from flu- associated complications, and 80 percent were not appropriately vaccinated against the flu for their age.
Most children who die from flu have not been “fully” vaccinated, as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports. Many of last year’s deaths could have been prevented. According to Dr. Dennis Ownby, Chief Medical Officer of PHIC, “The best way to protect children from serious flu risks is by vaccination.”
Children 6 months- to 8 years-old who have previously received only one dose or no doses of flu vaccine must receive two doses of the vaccine to be fully protected for the 2018-19 season. If the vaccination status is unknown for any child in this age group that child should be given two doses of seasonal flu vaccine. For more information, see the CDC’s Flu Guide for Parents .
“It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body, so now is the time to get a flu shot,”” says J. Patrick O’Neal, M.D., DPH commissioner. “Every individual over the age of six months should get a flu vaccine – not just for their own protection, but to protect others around them who may be more vulnerable to the flu and its complications.”
Receiving the flu vaccine does not cause the flu. Vaccinations are available at a variety of locations including doctors’ offices, grocery stores, neighborhood clinics, health departments, pharmacies, college health centers, places of employment and schools, to name a few.
Flu is a contagious illness of the lungs caused by influenza viruses that change and grow over time. It spreads through droplets when those with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. Flu vaccination works by reducing risk of death and the severity of the illness. Flu can attack anyone regardless of age and pediatric patients are among the most vulnerable. Wash your hands frequently and limit your exposure to those with the flu to lower your risk of catching the virus.
Flu season typically runs from October to May and peaks from December to February. The symptoms of the flu are:
– Muscles aches and fatigue
– Cough and runny nose
– Sore throat
– Vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children)
If you catch the flu:
– Stay home
– Avoid close contact with others
– Drink plenty of water or clear liquids to avoid dehydration
– Use over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory pain relievers to treat symptoms
Sometimes antiviral medications can help children at high risk for complications (very young children or children with chronic medical conditions) or those hospitalized, if they are started soon after the onset of symptoms. However, most children do not need to receive antiviral drugs.