To the editor:
The CDC has designated this week, Dec. 8-13, as National Influenza Vaccination Week to highlight the importance of the yearly vaccine as the single best way to prevent seasonal flu. It can also avoid doctors’ visits, missed work or school due to flu, and prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.
Although influenza activity is currently low in the United States, it is expected to increase in the coming weeks, peaking in January and beyond. Unlike the common cold, the flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people. The young, the old, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions are at high risk for more serious flu complications. According to the CDC, each year in the United States an average 5 percent to 20 percent of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. Over the past 30 years, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from 3,000 to 49,000 people. Last year, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health reported five influenza-related pediatric deaths during the 2012-2013 flu season.
The CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated against the flu every year. This is supported by the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association and the American Public Health Association. Unfortunately, some high-risk persons such as infants under 6 months and people with immune disease are unable to receive the vaccine; they rely entirely upon others to get vaccine and therefore be unable to transmit the flu to them.
If you have already received your flu vaccine, we all thank you; if not, please do. For a free flu vaccine, contact your local board of health. Together we can all help to improve the public’s health by providing immunity to our community!
Dr. Barbara Poremba
Salem Board of Health