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For Release:Dec. 20, 2012 – Leslea Bennett-Webb, Office of Communications - (405) 271-5601 

Spread the Holiday Spirit – Not the Flu – This Holiday Season

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) reminds you to make sure the gifts you give this holiday season don’t include the flu by getting your annual flu vaccination soon. Getting a flu vaccination now might keep your holidays from being miserable and more importantly, will help keep your loved ones safe from the flu as well.

The OSDH says flu activity is continuing to increase in Oklahoma as the nation experiences an early flu season this year. Flu activity in Oklahoma has been increasing since late November and this week reached a “regional” level meaning influenza virus infections are being confirmed in more communities across the state. Currently, the northwest and central areas of the state along with Tulsa County are experiencing the highest levels of flu-like illness. The OSDH has received reports of 51 persons hospitalized due to the flu so far this season.

An annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. Vaccination is especially important for those persons at high risk from flu complications including people 50 years of age and older, young children, persons with chronic lung disease (such as asthma and COPD), diabetes (type 1 and 2), heart disease, neurologic conditions, other long-term health conditions, and pregnant women.

“The flu vaccine provides protection for the individual who receives it and reduces the chance of spreading the flu to those who may not yet have been vaccinated, including babies too young to receive a vaccination,” said State Epidemiologist Dr. Kristy Bradley. “Persons who have the flu can spread it to others even before they feel sick.”

In addition to the traditional seasonal flu shot, a nasal spray flu vaccine is available for non-pregnant, healthy people between 2 and 49 years of age, and a high dose flu shot is available for persons 65 and older. An intradermal flu shot, which uses a needle 90 percent smaller than the regular flu shot, is approved for people 18 to 64 years of age.

State health officials note that some people avoid getting a flu vaccination because they believe the myth that getting the flu shot will give them the flu. What actually may occur is that persons are exposed to flu viruses shortly after they are vaccinated and before the approximately 14 days necessary to develop full protection from the vaccine. The most common side effects reported after flu vaccination are minor and are far outweighed by the benefits of the vaccine. Millions of flu vaccines have been given safely over the years, and vaccine safety remains a priority.

Flu vaccine is widely available at county health departments and from health care providers, retail pharmacies and other outlets, so there’s no reason not to include a flu vaccination on your holiday shopping list. For more information, contact your health care provider or your local county health department


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