Everyone Older than 6 Months Should Get Vaccinated
The New Mexico Department of Health announced today the first flu-related deaths of the 2015-2016 season. The two deaths occurred in men, ages 67 and 69 years, in Dona Ana and San Miguel counties, respectively. It serves as a somber reminder that flu can cause serious illness or death, particularly among persons at risk for flu-related complications.
“As influenza spreads throughout the state, it is important to get vaccinated if you haven’t already done so this season,” said Department of Health Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “The flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family, especially young children and the elderly.”
Overall, influenza activity remains low, both nationally and in New Mexico; however, flu activity typically peaks between December and February. During the 2014-2015 flu season, New Mexico had over 260 influenza and pneumonia-related deaths. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New Mexico Department of Health recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get their flu vaccine.
The Department suggests contacting healthcare providers or pharmacies to receive vaccine for protection against influenza and pneumonia. Pneumococcal vaccine can be given at the same time as flu vaccine to patients who qualify. It is an important additional form of protection because influenza frequently causes types of pneumonia that can be prevented by the pneumococcal vaccine. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about whether you need this vaccine as well.
While everyone should get a flu vaccine each flu season, it’s especially important that people in the following groups get vaccinated, either because they are at high risk of having serious flu-related complications or because they live with or care for people at high risk for developing flu-related complications:
- Pregnant women (any trimester) and up to two weeks post-partum
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- People age 65 and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, and lung or heart disease and those with immunosuppression from medication or disease
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including healthcare personnel and caregivers of babies younger than 6 months
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives
- People who are morbidly obese
Symptoms of seasonal flu may include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, tiredness and/or muscle aches. People who might have influenza – particularly if they are in the groups listed above at risk for severe disease and complications – should seek medical care and start antiviral medication as soon as possible.The Department also recommends the following to help prevent catching or spreading influenza:
- Wash your hands and your children’s hands frequently, especially after contact with other people.
- Use a tissue to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue afterward, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve if no tissues are available.
- Clean your hands after you cough or sneeze, even if you use a tissue. Use soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water are not available and your hands are not visibly soiled.
- Stay home if you get the flu.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
For more information about flu, visit the Department of Health’s flu page at nmhealth.org and click on the flu banner.