State health officials: Get flu shots now

(Source: MGN Online)
(Source: MGN Online)

BATON ROUGE, LA (KPLC) - Parish health units across the state are now offering flu vaccinations to all residents six months and older.

Those with insurance should bring your insurance card.

Anyone without insurance will only be charged $10 for the flu shot.

Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals officials say flu season in the state usually peaks in February, but that's no reason to wait.

They suggest getting the vaccine now. They say while it's arming you against the flu, new studies suggest it may also protect against heart attacks and stroke.

"Right now, flu activity is low in Louisiana, but that will not always be the case and it's no reason to let your guard down," said DHH Secretary Kathy Kliebert. "Getting a flu vaccination now will help protect you throughout this year's flu season. I want to speak specifically to parents today in urging people to take responsibility in protecting themselves and their families against the flu. Children who miss school because of this illness can't learn, and parents fully understand the struggles of caring for a sick child. This is such a simple step every parent can take. I challenge Louisiana moms and dads to beat the national trends and raise our rates of children's flu vaccinations starting today."

According to DHH, groups considered at higher risk for the flu complications include:

Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old;

Adults aged 65 years of age and older;

Pregnant women;

American Indians and Alaskan Natives seem to be at higher risk of flu complications.

People with medical conditions including:

Asthma (even if it's controlled or mild);

Neurological and neurodevelopmental conditions [including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscle such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizure disorders), stroke, intellectual disability (mental retardation), moderate to severe developmental delay, muscular dystrophy, or spinal cord injury];

Chronic lung disease (such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease [COPD] and cystic fibrosis);

Heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease);

Blood disorders (such as sickle cell disease);

Endocrine disorders (such as diabetes mellitus);

Kidney disorders;

Liver disorders;

Metabolic disorders (such as inherited metabolic disorders and mitochondrial disorders);

Weakened immune system due to disease or medication (such as people with HIV or AIDS, or cancer, or those on chronic steroids);

People younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy;

People who are morbidly obese (Body Mass Index [BMI] of 40 or greater).

Other people for whom vaccination is especially important are:

People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and;

People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, including:

Health care workers;

Household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu, and;

Household contacts and caregivers of children younger than 5 years of age with particular emphasis on vaccinating contacts of children younger than 6 months of age (children younger than 6 months are at highest risk of flu-related complications but are too young to get vaccinated).

Copyright 2013 KPLC. All rights reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this article.