Prepare for holidays with flu vaccination

Holiday travel for family gatherings and intense shopping can mean increased influenza activity so now is a good time to get vaccinated, says a state health official.

"We've had just five lab confirmed cases of influenza so far this season but we know virus activity often picks up as people travel for the holidays," said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the South Dakota Department of Health. "Getting vaccinated now can help protect you and your loved ones from the flu."

During the 2010-2011 flu season, South Dakota reported 22 influenza-associated deaths, four of whom were children.

While yearly flu vaccination is recommended for everyone, it is particularly important for those at higher risk of complications – very young children, pregnant women, people over 50 years and people with chronic medical conditions. Health-care workers and household contacts of high risk populations, especially those with young infants in the household, should also be vaccinated.

People can check with their medical provider, retail pharmacy, or department Community Health Services offices for the vaccine. The vaccine is available free from the state for kids from age 6 months through 18 years. Some schools are offering school-based flu clinics or parents can check with their usual provider. While the vaccine is free, some providers may charge an administration fee.

South Dakotans can also prevent the spread of the flu with these tips:

  •  Wash hands often with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand gel;
  •  Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze;
  • Don't touch your eyes, nose or mouth;
  • Stay home if you're sick.
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