Public health officials at the Oregon Department of Human Services (DHS) are urging people not to delay getting their vaccinations, as flu season is nearing.

Despite earlier concerns about a vaccine manufacturing complication, it is expected that supplies will be available in all communities in October, which is the usual month for vaccine activity, said Lorraine Duncan, DHS immunization manager.

"Every year ends up being a bad one for flu, and we want people to be protected," Duncan said. "The past few flu seasons have really raised public awareness, so we're hoping people take action and get immunized."

"People at a high risk of complications from the flu and those who come in contact with them should start getting their immunizations immediately," Duncan said. "And if you're a health care provider, that means you. Don't take the chance of spreading influenza to vulnerable patients."

Duncan said 64 percent of health care workers do not get flu vaccinations.

Unvaccinated health care workers are often implicated as the source of influenza in health care settings, including acute and long-term care facilities, according to Duncan. "Immunizing health care workers has been shown to reduce illness by 43 percent, and a 44 percent reduction in deaths among geriatric patients in long-term care facilities," she said.

Public health officials recommend that persons at a higher risk of complications from influenza be vaccinated in October and November. They are:

• Anyone age 50 or older, residents of nursing or long-term care facilities, anyone age 6 months and older with chronic illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, renal disease and immune deficiencies; children under 19 who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy; and women who will be pregnant, no matter what trimester, during flu season.

• Healthy children ages 6 to 23 months.

• All people who live, work or provide care to high-risk persons listed above. This includes household members, health care providers, employees of nursing homes and care facilities; providers of home care and day care for high risk persons and young children. Parents and caregivers of infants up to six months are especially encouraged to get a flu shot.

Influenza is characterized by abrupt onset of high fever, headache, sore throat, cough and muscle aches. Other respiratory infections that can be confused with influenza are usually milder and are more likely to start with sore throat, sneezing, runny nose and slight fever.

"All other healthy persons who want to protect themselves from the expense and misery of influenza should start getting their vaccinations in November and even into next year," Duncan said. "Influenza usually appears in Oregon in December and peaks in February."

For information about flu shot clinics in your area, call (800) 723-3638 or SAFENET.

Additional influenza information is on the Web at (www.dhs.state.or.us/ publichealth/acd/docs/influenza.cfm)

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