Maine CDC Press Release

October 14, 2011

Influenza on the Horizon, Vaccine Readily Available

AUGUSTA – With the first month of school already over and the leaves changing colors, flu season is on its way. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) recommends an annual flu vaccine as the first and best way to protect against influenza.

Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine annually, even if they were vaccinated last year. Flu vaccine is available now and Maine CDC encourages Mainers to get vaccinated.

Every year, up to 20 percent of U.S. residents will get the flu. On average, more than 200,000 will be hospitalized for influenza-related complications. People at high risk for developing flu-related complications include: children younger than 5; adults 65 of age and older; pregnant women; American Indians; Alaskan natives; people who have underlying medical conditions (including asthma, heart disease, and weakened immune systems); and those who are morbidly obese.

"The flu is still a serious illness in the United States" said Dr. Sheila Pinette, Director of Maine CDC. "There were 115 influenza-associated pediatric deaths in the United States last season, including one in Maine. Mainers should do all they can to protect themselves and their loved ones against this illness."

Flu vaccine is widely available in the state. There are two ways to get a flu vaccine: either by shot or through a nasal spray and both are equally effective. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for immune protection to begin. Many Maine public schools are offering vaccine again this year. To find the nearest flu shot clinic – contact your school, your provider, or dial 2-1-1 for local flu clinics. Local pharmacies also have the vaccine and many are open and offer the vaccine 7 days a week.

Signs of influenza include fever, cough, sore throat , runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. “Anyone with these symptoms should follow the No Flu 4 You guidelines” Dr. Pinette said. "This includes hand washing, good respiratory etiquette including covering your cough, staying home while ill and getting vaccinated."

For questions regarding the vaccine please contact the Maine Immunization Program at 207-287-3746 or 1-800-867-4775 or by e-mail at immuneme@maine.gov.

For questions regarding the disease, or to report cases or an outbreak contact the Infectious Disease Epidemiology Program at 1-800-821-5821 or by e-mail at disease.reporting@maine.gov.