2005-10-21 / Community

Health Department : Prepare For Flu Season With A Shot

To prepare for the coming flu season, City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden today urged New Yorkers at highest risk for serious illness or death from influenza (flu) to get a flu shot starting this month. Vaccine is currently available, and additional supplies will arrive from manufacturers periodically over the next few months, according to federal health officials. New Yorkers should first check with their doctor to schedule a flu shot. Otherwise, New Yorkers can call 311 or log on to nyc.gov/health/flu to find the closest Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH) clinic.

Dr. Frieden said, “New Yorkers at highest risk of dying from the flu - especially people over the age of 65 - should get a flu shot this month. To make sure that people who need a flu shot are able to get one this year, those at highest risk for complications from the flu will be offered flu shots first. Remember, you need this year’s flu shot to protect against this year’s flu and you can’t get the flu from the flu shot.”

“People at high risk for complications from the flu should always get a flu shot. While current vaccine supplies should allow everyone who wants to get a flu shot this year to get one, those at highest risk of severe illness or death from the flu should get vaccinated in October. We are in close contact with federal health officials to monitor the supply of vaccine available to the City. A flu shot received at any time during flu season will offer protection, so contact your medical provider to get one this season.”

Who Should Get a Flu Shot: People age 65 and older; Children age 6 to 23 months; Residents of nursing homes and other long-term-care facilities; Health care workers who take direct care of patients; Pregnant women; Persons age 6 months and older with long-term health problems, such as: diabetes; lung disease, including asthma; heart disease; kidney disease; sickle cell anemia; immune system problems (including people with HIV/ AIDS, and those being treated for cancer or taking high-dose steroids); conditions that can cause breathing problems (such as cognitive dysfunction, spinal cord injuries, seizure disorders, or other neuromuscular disorders); and children age 6 months to 18 years on long-term aspirin therapy and caregivers and household members of infants younger than six months (babies this age can get the flu, but are too young for a flu shot).

Ordering More Flu Vaccine - Information for Doctors. The medical community should make sure patients at highest risk of serious illness from the flu get vaccinated. Those physicians who do not have vaccine can contact the DOHMH through the Provider Access Line (1-866-NYC-DOH1) or log on to nyc.gov/health/flu. Physicians can place an order for vaccine by completing an order form, which will be accepted by phone, fax, or e-mail. The cost is approximately $10.40 per dose. DOHMH will review all requests for flu vaccine and verify all orders prior to shipment. This process is not to be used by providers in the Vaccines for Children Program (VFC). Providers may request additional influenza vaccine for VFC-eligible children through the regular channels.

New Yorkers should get a flu shot from the family doctor or primary care provider. Additionally, many employers offer free or low-cost flu shots. Flu shots for people in high-risk groups are available free at Health Department immunization clinics and free or low-cost at more than 30 Health and Hospitals Corporation facilities located citywide. Flu shots for people 65 and older are available free at City-operated senior centers. To find out where to get a flu shot, visit nyc.gov/health/flu or call 311.

While DOHMH is currently offering flu shots at its usual clinics, DOHMH is prepared to open large scale vaccination clinics called Points of Dispensing Sites or PODS - as it did last year - to accommodate an increased demand for flu shots if necessary.

The DOHMH makes the following recommendations to reduce exposure to flu infection:

- Get a flu shot every year as soon as you can, and reduce infections year-round by staying home when you’re sick with fever and cough.

- Cover coughs and sneezes.

- Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based solution.

The flu is a serious disease that causes 36,000 deaths, on average, each year and more than 200,000 annual hospitalizations nationwide. Symptoms of the flu include fever over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, chills, severe headache and muscle aches as well as a cough and sore throat. Individuals who know that they have been exposed to someone with influenza, or who are experiencing symptoms of flu, should consult with their health care provider immediately to determine if antiviral drugs may be helpful. Treatment with antiviral medications can sometimes make the course of illness less severe, if treatment is started within 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. Antibiotics are not effective against influenza.

For more information about the flu, call 311 or visit nyc.gov/health/flu.

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