Pediatric flu shots are now available at all Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) county clinics.
The MSDH recommends flu shots for anyone aged six months and older as a way to prevent the spread of flu, and more importantly, save lives.
“Last year an estimated 80,000 adults nationwide died from the flu, with 183 influenza deaths in children – three of which were in Mississippi,” said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “We know that nationally, 80 percent of the pediatric deaths were in children who were not vaccinated against the flu. Flu vaccine is the best way to protect both children and adults from serious complications such as hospitalization, and in many cases, death.”
Dr. Byers said that flu season in Mississippi usually peaks in January through March.
“We recommend getting vaccinated now before we reach peak flu activity. Influenza vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and older,” he said.
Only those adults who are underinsured or uninsured and who meet certain high-risk criteria qualify for an adult flu vaccine at MSDH county health department clinics. Flu shots for insured adults are now widely available through private physicians, pharmacies, and retail centers.
Those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program can receive flu vaccination for $10. Insurance, Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is accepted for children’s flu shots.
“Those particularly at risk for influenza complications include young children, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and those with chronic illnesses. It is especially important for persons at high risk and those in close contact with them to be vaccinated to prevent the severe complications that can come with infection,” said Dr. Byers.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, muscle and body aches and fatigue. Most people recover from the flu without complications, but nationwide there are up to 200,000 hospitalizations from flu each year.
While vaccination is the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu and should be taken whether or not individuals are vaccinated. These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick, and washing your hands frequently.
“Additionally, if you do get the flu, take antiviral medications if your doctor prescribes them,” said Dr. Byers. “When used for treatment, antiviral drugs can lessen symptoms, shorten the time you are sick, and prevent serious complications like pneumonia.”
To locate a county health department clinic in your area or for more information on flu, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com/flu. Follow MSDH by email and social media at HealthyMS.com/connect.