NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam, First Lady Crissy Haslam and Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH, have rolled up their sleeves to get their annual vaccinations against influenza, and are urging fellow Tennesseans to do the same to help protect and promote good health in the state. Vaccination against the flu is the best way to protect yourself and your family from this illness. Seasonal flu vaccine is widely available at locations throughout Tennessee, including county health department clinics.
“I encourage all Tennesseans to get a flu shot because it not only protects the individual’s health but also the health of friends, family and coworkers,” Haslam said. “It’s the right thing to do.”
“Influenza is an illness that can be very serious and even deadly,” said Dreyzehner. “Getting vaccinated offers the best possible protection to people around you, people you care about, including yourself. We urge everyone aged six months and older who has not yet received a flu vaccination to get one as soon as possible to protect health here in Tennessee.”
Each year in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates five to 20 percent of the population can be infected with the flu and more than 200,000 people may be hospitalized from complications of the illness. Most people who get the flu recover fully within one to two weeks. However, some people develop serious, life-threatening complications such as pneumonia.
“By protecting yourself with a flu vaccination you’re really protecting people around you,” said Dreyzehner. “For example, children under six months of age can’t be vaccinated against the flu, and depend on people around them to keep from getting sick. People with weaker immune systems may have only partial protection even when they’ve been vaccinated, and those with certain medical conditions may not be able to receive vaccine.”
The CDC and the Tennessee Department of Health recommend flu vaccination for everyone over the age of six months. This year’s vaccine includes protection against the H1N1 flu virus along with two other strains expected to circulate this year. Flu vaccine is widely available throughout Tennessee from sources including primary health care providers, pharmacies and county health departments.
It is especially important to vaccinate people at high risk for serious illness from flu such as the elderly, pregnant women and young children, as well as healthcare workers and family and friends of people at high risk. Mothers who are vaccinated against influenza while they are pregnant protect themselves and pass that protection on to their newborn babies.
In addition to getting vaccinated, it’s important to practice good health habits to protect yourself from the flu and other winter viruses, and to prevent spreading them to others if you do get sick. Common-sense precautions include frequent hand washing with warm soapy water, keeping hands away from your face, and covering coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or tissue. People who are sick should stay home if at all possible in order to prevent spreading illness to coworkers or social contacts, and to recover more quickly.
Flu vaccine can cut your risk of getting the flu this winter in half, if not more, and it will work for about a year. For the most benefit, get it now before the influenza virus starts spreading in your community, because the vaccine takes one to two weeks to start protecting you. The vaccine is available as an injection (the “flu shot”) or as a nasal spray.
For more information on the flu vaccine, including a tool to find vaccination sites in your area, visit the Department of Health website at http://health.state.tn.us/FluClinic/Default.aspx.