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Seasonal flu vaccine arrives early, vaccination encouraged

While H1N1 influenza (swine flu) is currently in the headlines, thousands of people get sick every year in King County from seasonal influenza, also known as seasonal flu. The seasonal flu vaccine is starting to become available, and vaccination is the best way to prevent getting sick and to lessen the severity of illness. Federal health officials expect that a separate vaccine to protect against the H1N1 influenza will begin to be distributed in October.

“Getting a flu shot protects you, your family and your community against a highly contagious illness that causes preventable medical visits, inappropriate antibiotic treatments, hospitalizations and deaths every year,” said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Chief of Communicable Disease and Immunizations, Public Health - Seattle & King County. “Both the seasonal flu and H1N1 strains are predicted to be circulating in the community this flu season, so it’s especially important that people who are recommended to receive each vaccine get protected. Getting the seasonal flu vaccine is the first step.”

“Now is the time to get vaccinated while supplies are plentiful and health care providers’ offices and pharmacies are not as busy,” said Duchin.

Influenza, unlike the common cold, has a swift onset of symptoms beginning with two to seven days of fever, headache, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, runny nose and sore throat, and a cough that is often severe and may last seven days or more. Influenza can also lead to serious bacterial pneumonia, including MRSA.

Who should get a seasonal flu vaccine?

Vaccination is recommended to protect people at high-risk for complications from the flu, including:

• Children ages six months to 19

• Pregnant women

• People 50 years of age and older

• People, 6 months or older, with certain chronic medical conditions, such as heart disease, lung disease (including asthma), kidney disease or diabetes

• People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities and their caregivers.

For complete information about seasonal influenza, where to get a flu vaccine, and costs, please visit the flu season Web pages at www.kingcounty.gov/health/flu or call (206) 296-4949.

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