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Indiana health officials urge getting flu vaccine

Statement as issued Monday by the Indiana State Department of Health:

INDIANAPOLIS – During National Influenza Vaccination Week, State health officials remind Hoosiers that influenza vaccinations will be available throughout the winter months. There is still plenty of time to receive a vaccination and be protected from influenza, or "the flu."

"Although fall is the best time to get vaccinated, flu season is just getting started, and getting vaccinated now will still protect you and your family," said Joan Duwve, M.D., Chief Medical Officer at the Indiana State Department of Health. "Even if you have a mild case of flu, you may still feel miserable and you can spread it to others. Seventy-two Hoosiers died from complications of influenza last year."

Indiana ranks 13th worst in the nation for influenza vaccinations, with only 40 percent of Hoosiers being vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Flu vaccination rates vary by age group. Among 18-64 year olds, the vaccination rate drops to 32.3 percent and 13-17 year olds have the lowest rate at 27.9 percent. The flu vaccine is safe, effective and offers the best protection from becoming infected with the flu virus.

About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection. Flu vaccines will not protect against flu-like illnesses caused by non-influenza viruses.

"The holiday season means sharing good times and memories with friends and family," said Dr. Duwve. "Keep your holidays and your family healthy by getting the flu vaccine today."

It is especially important for those at high risk for complications from the flu to receive the vaccine, including children age 6 months and older, pregnant women, people age 50 and older, nursing home and long-term care facility residents and people with certain chronic medical conditions.

State health officials also encourage influenza vaccination of health care workers, and household contacts and caregivers of children less than 6 months of age, as well as household contacts of people at high risk for flu complications.

Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death. Flu viruses are spread from person to person mainly through coughing or sneezing. People with the flu are contagious one day before they get sick and for five days after becoming sick.

Symptoms of the flu include:

• Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater

• Headache

• Fatigue

• Cough

• Muscle aches

• Sore throat

Individuals who experience these symptoms should see a healthcare provider.

Another ailment often mistakenly associated with the flu, "stomach flu" or viral gastroenteritis, is not actually influenza. It is a viral infection of the intestinal tract. It is spread through eating or drinking contaminated food or drink or by close contact with an infected person. Unfortunately, flu vaccine won't prevent viral gastroenteritis; however, frequent hand washing, disinfecting contaminated surfaces and prompt washing of soiled clothing will help prevent the spread of gastroenteritis. Always avoid preparing food if you have gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting.

Since flu season coincides with football season, this year the Indiana State Department of Health and the Indianapolis Colts have teamed up to promote influenza vaccination and prevention through a new campaign called Join Blue, Prevent the Flu!

Blue, the Colts' mascot, and State health officials are encouraging Hoosiers to get vaccinated and practice the "three Cs" to help stop the spread of the flu and other respiratory diseases like pertussis (whooping cough):

• Clean – Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water.

• Cover – Cover your cough or sneeze with your sleeve or a disposable tissue.

• Contain – Stay home from school and work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.

As part of the campaign, Hoosiers are encouraged to tweet photos of themselves washing their hands to #COLTSCLEAN. Winning pictures will be selected at random and will be featured in the Colts last home game program. The photo does not need to be taken at a Colts game.

Check out the Join Blue, Prevent the Flu! video that's playing at Lucas Oil Stadium by visiting http://bit.ly/I1dVkC.

For more information, visit www.StateHealth.in.gov. To learn more about the Join Blue, Prevent the Flu! campaign, visit http://bit.ly/11ZSd8y.

Follow the Indiana State Department of Health on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isdh1 for important health updates.

Send items for The Scoop to jgnews@jg.net.

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