SPARTA, NJ - It is flu season, and the signs offering flu vaccines are posted in front of pharmacies all over the county.
While senior citizens, or at least adults, are the ones who generally take advantage of the $15 flu shots, they are not the only ones who need shots.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an advisory urging parents to have their children vaccinated. Flu activity has increased over the past two weeks, the CDC reported. It also reported five pediatric influenza-associated deaths in the early weeks of the flu season.
Flu vaccines for children are not a new idea, Dr. Regina Bronstein, a pediatrician from Premier Health Associates in Sparta, said during a recent interview.
“An influenza vaccine is strongly recommended for children from six months to five years,” she said, noting the state has required the vaccine for children attending daycare for the past five years. At first the state mandate was for children up to age three, later it was changed to age five.
However, she and other medical professionals recommend a vaccine for everyone from six months to 18 years.
“A vaccine is indicated for anyone with an underlying medical condition,” she noted.
Asthma, diabetes and other chronic conditions make children more susceptible to the flu, and make it more severe when they get it, she said.
The CDC website states: “Vaccination is especially important for people who are at high risk from flu complications.”
These include children under five, and especially under two, adults 65-years-old and older, and pregnant women, as well as those with certain medical conditions. Among the conditions listed are asthma, neurological and neurodevelopmental disorders, chronic lung, heart, blood, endocrine (such as diabetes), kidney, liver or metabolic disorders, or a weakened immune system. Two special groups at high risk are people younger than 19-years-old, who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy, and those who are morbidly obese.
Vaccines are also especially important if a parent or sibling has medical issues, she said.
Families underestimate the severity of influenza, Bronstein said. “It is a serious disease.”
This year’s vaccine is a 75 percent match to the predominant virus, Bronstein said, it is not that close some years.
While most of the reported cases this year are in New York City, there have been local cases.
Bronstein said when someone comes in with flu-like symptoms, the doctors start treatment. A test for influenza is a mouth swab done at the hospital, and Bronstein said it is impractical to send everyone with symptoms to the emergency room, “it would overwhelm the system,” she said. Those with another indication that going to the hospital is a good idea, or who already need to go are sent in for the test.
Bronstein believes everyone who works outside the home, or has any contact with people should have a flu shot.
She gets an annual vaccination, and so does all of her family, “even if they aren’t happy about it,” she said. “I had the flu once and was very sick,” she said, noting she never wants to have it again.
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