Health Department Reports State's First Lab-Confirmed Influenza Case of the Season

Friday, November 9, 2007 General News
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Health Secretary Reminds Pennsylvanians to Get a Flu Shot



HARRISBURG, Pa., Nov. 8 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A Lehigh County man is Pennsylvania's first state laboratory-confirmed case of influenza this season, the state Health Department said today.



"The announcement of our first confirmed flu case carries with it a reminder to all Pennsylvanians to take the necessary steps to remain healthy throughout flu season," state Health Secretary Dr. Calvin B. Johnson said. "While this is only the beginning of the flu season, now is the time to get vaccinated and protect your health."



The influenza vaccine is recommended for the following high-risk individuals:

-- All children 6-59 months of age;

-- People over 50 years of age regardless of their medical history;

-- Residents of long-term care facilities;

-- People with underlying health conditions such as heart, respiratory, metabolic, and immune system problems;

-- People with certain muscle or nerve disorders (such as cerebral palsy or seizure disorders) that can lead to breathing or swallowing problems;

-- People with weakened immune systems such as: HIV/AIDS, long-term treatment of steroids, and cancer treatment with x-rays or drugs;

-- Children and adolescents 6 months to 18 years of age on long-term aspirin treatment;

-- Women who will be pregnant anytime during the influenza season;

-- Household contacts and out-of-home caregivers of children 0-59 months of age; and

-- Physicians, nurses, family members, or anyone else in close contact with any of these groups at risk for influenza.



Each year, an estimated 36,000 individuals die from influenza-related illnesses and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized nationwide. Rates of serious illness and death are highest among people over the age of 65 and individuals of any age who have chronic medical conditions that place them at increased risk for complications from influenza.



Dr. Johnson urged individuals in the high-risk category to also receive the pneumococcal vaccine. Pneumonia is one of the serious illnesses that can result from getting the flu.



Recommended ways to prevent the spread of the flu include frequent hand-washing, covering your nose and mouth when sneezing or coughing, and, when possible, avoiding contact with others when you are sick.



It is also important to consult with your medical provider as soon as the first symptoms of influenza appear since certain antiviral prescription drugs may lessen the duration and severity of the illness if taken early. Dr. Johnson suggested consulting a physician for further information.



Flu cases traditionally peak between January and March, so individuals should consider getting vaccinated at some time from now through March. It takes one to two weeks to build up immunity after receiving the flu vaccine.



For more information on influenza, contact the Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH or visit www.health.state.pa.us/flu.





SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Health


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