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January 16th, 2013

Widespread flu activity noted throughout state

POUGHKEEPSIE - Flu season in the Mid-Hudson Valley has arrived with a vengeance. Physicians, hospitals and schools are all reporting increases in flu cases.

"So many people are finding themselves home sick with the flu," said Michael C. Caldwell, MD, MPH, Dutchess County Department of Health. "The best way to protect yourself against the flu is to get vaccinated. Influenza vaccine is more available that ever before at healthcare providers, pharmacies and our Adult Clinics."

Caldwell noted flu vaccines have a very good safety track record and can provide protection as long as they are renewed each year.

"If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, the New Year is a great opportunity to get this annual vaccination," Caldwell added. "A common misconception is that you need to have received your flu vaccine by now or it’s too late. Not true! You can still protect yourself and your family in the winter and spring by getting it now."

Flu vaccination takes two weeks for antibodies to fully develop and provide protection against the flu, so it is important to follow these illness prevention tips:

• Wash hands frequently.

• Cover coughs with the inside of your elbow or a tissue.

• Increase your distance from others when possible.

• Stay home when you’re not feeling well to prevent the spread of germs.

• If you smoke, quit. Smoking increases your risk of getting the flu. The New York State Smokers’ Quitline (1-866-NY QUITS or provides assistance to those trying to quit smoking.

Everyone six months of age or older should receive the flu vaccine, especially for those at high risk of complications from the flu or those who provide care for persons who are at high risk, including:

• Children or infants

• Pregnant women

• Seniors

• The disabled

• Travelers

• Those living abroad

Influenza vaccine is available in two forms, the traditional flu shot and the nasal spray. These both provide protection against the same flu virus. The injectable flu shot is made with inactivated (killed) virus. This is approved for use in most people six months or older. The nasal spray is made with a weakened live flu virus. It is given with a mist sprayed in your nose. It is approved for use in healthy, non-pregnant persons, aged two years through 49 years of age.

Individuals cannot get the flu from the vaccine. They may feel mild flu-like side effects following vaccination for a few days, such as soreness at the injections site, headaches and a low-grade fever.

The Dutchess County Department of Health offers flu vaccine at Adult Immunization and Screening Clinics held each Monday except holidays, from 1-3 p.m. at their offices at 387 Main Street in Poughkeepsie, NY.

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