2006-10-27 / Community

Smith Urges Residents To Get Flu Shots

With the chilly winter months fast approaching, Senator Malcolm A. Smith is urging his constituents to consider getting flu shots for the season.

Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory illness that spreads mainly from person to person through coughing and sneezing, and causes approximately 36,000 deaths nationwide each year.

According to Smith, the virus can also pass undetected before the usual telltale signs of fever, runny nose, headaches and coughing, which is another reason to take decisive action against the highly contagious disease.

"Here in New York, we've learned in recent years there is always some uncertainty regarding the supply of the flu vaccine.

This year, though, vaccine manufacturers anticipate ample supple will be available, with more than 100 million doses earmarked for the United States," said Smith. "Unlike previous flu seasons, there should be no need to limit flu vaccinations to people in certain high-risk groups."

In an average year, between five and 20 percent of Americans come down with the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized.

Many of those hospitalized would have benefited from the protection a flu vaccination provides.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, flu shots are for almost anyone who wants to reduce the chance of getting the flu, but it's especially important for people who have a high risk of developing serious flu complications, or those who live with or care for those at high risk, including:

+ Children aged 6 months to five years.

+ Pregnant women.

+ People aged 50 years and older.

+ People with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, asthma and cardiovascular disease.

+ Residents of nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

+ Household contacts of high-risk individuals.

+ Health care workers.

Additionally, vaccination with the nasal spray flu vaccine is an option for health persons aged 5 to 49 years (who are not pregnant).

"While widespread outbreaks of the flu usually don't appear until December, and typically peak by March, public health officials suggest October and November are the best months to receive the vaccine, which offers up to six months of protection," said Smith. "However, you can get vaccinated at any time throughout the season. Even some protection is better than no protection."

Medicare Part B pays for flu vaccinations but, if you are not covered, there are plenty of places that offer them at little or no cost.

Flu shots are available at many health care settings, pharmacies, supermarkets, senior centers, and community-based groups.

Anyone who needs help in obtaining a flu shot may call 311, the Center

for Disease Control (CDC) hotline at

1-800-232-2522 or Senator Smith's office at (718) 528-4290.

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