PIERRE, S.D. (KELO AM) – Help prevent spreading the flu at upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas gatherings by getting vaccinated now, says a state health official.
"Very young children and the elderly are at high risk from the flu but even those of us who are healthy can get very sick from the virus,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “The best way we can protect ourselves and vulnerable loved ones from the flu and its complications is to get vaccinated."
To date South Dakota has reported five laboratory-confirmed cases of flu, including one death. Not everyone who is sick seeks medical care or is tested so the actual number of cases is higher. “Influenza hits us every winter season and last season 38 flu-associated deaths were reported in South Dakota,” noted Kightlinger.
During the 2012-2013 season 56.71 percent of South Dakotans over age 6 months were vaccinated against the flu, the second highest rate in the nation.
Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone but some people are at particularly high risk and should be sure to be vaccinated. This includes people over 50, pregnant women, those with chronic medical conditions, health-care workers and household contacts of high risk populations, especially those with young infants.
Children should also be vaccinated as they account for significant numbers of cases each year and help spread flu in the community. The department offers free flu vaccine for kids from six months to 18 years.
In addition to vaccination, to prevent the spread of the flu:
- Wash your 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; and,
- Stay home if you're sick.
Learn more about flu prevention at http://flu.sd.gov.