Still time for parents to vaccinate kids for flu A state health official says it's not too late for parents to immunize their kids against the flu and National Influenza Immunization Week is a good time to do it. The annual event will be observed Dec. 8-14 and Dec. 9 is designated Children's Vaccination Day. The flu season is already underway in South Dakota with one laboratory-confirmed case of influenza A and eight rapid test positives reported to date. "Influenza is spreading in South Dakota and if you haven't already vaccinated your kids, now is the time," said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, State Epidemiologist for the Department of Health. "Flu doesn't typically peak in South Dakota until February or later so getting the vaccine now or even in January still provides protection." For the second year South Dakota is providing the vaccine free for kids from six months to 18 years. Parents can contact private medical clinics or the department's local community health offices to get their children vaccinated. A listing of vaccine providers can be found at http://doh.sd.gov/LocalOffices/Vaccine.aspx. To date more than 67,000 doses have been administered through the state's child flu vaccination initiative and clinics are continuing. The initiative targets kids because they account for a significant percentage of flu cases and hospitalizations. Last flu season, 45 percent of South Dakota's cases were kids 18 and younger while 20 percent of flu-related hospitalizations were 9 and younger. Other high risk groups which should be vaccinated include older people, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions. Health care providers and household contacts of the high-risk should also be vaccinated. South Dakotans can also help stop the spread of flu by practicing "Stop It, Don't Spread it": • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand gel if you can't wash; • Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze; • Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth; • If you're sick stay home. More information about influenza can be found on the department's Web site at http://flu.sd.gov.
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