Jackson, Miss. In recognition of National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) this week, the Mississippi State Department of Health reminds all Mississippians that vaccination is the best protection against influenza.
"Just a few weeks ago, we reported the first case of influenza (flu) confirmed in the Mississippi Public Health Laboratory for the 2016-2017 flu season, and our surveillance indicates that we are up to sporadic flu activity in the state now" said MSDH State Epidemiologist Dr. Paul Byers. “You really want to go ahead and get vaccinated now instead of waiting for widespread flu activity since it can take the flu shot one to two weeks to produce immunity."
Nationwide, an estimated 3,000-49,000 people die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized each year because of the flu.
While individual flu cases are not reported to MSDH, the agency monitors flu activity through the Influenza-Like Illness (ILI) Sentinel Surveillance System, made up of healthcare providers in Mississippi who report the percentage of patients with flu-like symptoms to a statewide database. Healthcare providers participating in the system also submit respiratory samples for flu testing to the MSDH Public Health Laboratory. MSDH uses this information to determine the presence and spread of flu throughout the state.
Starting this year, adult flu vaccine is no longer offered at county health department clinics except for those who are underinsured or uninsured and who meet certain high-risk criteria. However, those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children program or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) can receive flu vaccination at any county clinic for $10. Insurance, Medicaid and CHIP is accepted for children's flu shots.
"The change this year is due to the availability of flu shots in other healthcare settings such as private physicians and pharmacies, giving those with insurance many options for vaccination. The number of doses we were administering in our clinics has declined over the years. However, we do encourage all Mississippians six months and older to get vaccinated. Those particularly at risk for influenza complications include young children, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and those with chronic illnesses," said Dr. Byers.
While vaccination is the best protection, basic infection control measures can also reduce the spread of flu and should be taken whether or not individuals are vaccinated. These measures include covering your mouth when coughing and sneezing, staying at home when you or your children are sick, and washing your hands frequently.
To locate a county health department clinic in your area or for more information on flu and pneumonia, visit the MSDH website at www.HealthyMS.com/flu.
Follow MSDH by e-mail and social media at HealthyMS.com/connect.
Press Contact: MSDH Office of Communications, (601) 576-7667
Note to media: After hours or during emergencies, call 1-866-HLTHY4U (1-866-458-4948)