RALEIGH -- With flu cases already appearing in our state, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Aldona Wos is encouraging all North Carolinians to protect themselves by getting the flu vaccine. While it is too soon to tell how severe this year's influenza season will be, public health experts see recent events as a good opportunity to remind people how important it is to take precautions.
"Several H1N1 cases recently reported in our state serve as a good reminder that it's not too early to be vaccinated," Dr. Wos said. "Even healthy people can get very sick if they get the flu and nobody wants to be out of work or school for an extended period. It's important to remember that we all can help keep our co-workers and our families healthy by being vaccinated."
DHHS recently implemented a mandatory flu vaccine policy for its 14 state-operated healthcare facilities. This measure is intended to curb the spread of flu among staff, residents, patients, volunteers and their families and close contacts.
DHHS has distributed nearly 200,000 doses of vaccine thus far to local health departments and health care providers to immunize children eligible for the Vaccines for Children Program, as well as certain uninsured adults who qualify for state-supplied vaccine. In addition to state-supplied vaccine, many employers, local community organizations and pharmacies offer or sponsor flu clinics. Most insurance plans and Medicaid cover flu vaccinations.
This year's vaccine protects against the strains of flu that are expected to circulate this year, including H1N1. Vaccination is available in nasal spray and shot form.
In addition to vaccination, DHHS encourages everyone to use personal precautions to protect against the spread of flu and other viruses:
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then discard the tissue promptly.
- Wash hands frequently, preferably with soap and water or an approved hand sanitizer.
- Stay home when you are sick until you are fever free for at least 24 hours.
For more information on flu and to find out where you can get a flu vaccination in your community, visit www.flu.nc.gov.