Health district: Prevent the spread of flu in schools, vaccinate your child

"While anyone is susceptible to the flu virus, it is especially easy for flu to spread among schoolchildren," according to the North Georgia Health District, "and children are more susceptible to getting infected and becoming seriously ill with flu."

Is your school-aged child vaccinated against the flu?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza transmission is now widespread in Georgia. While anyone is susceptible to the flu virus, it is especially easy for flu to spread among schoolchildren, and children are more susceptible to getting infected and becoming seriously ill with flu.

The best way to prevent flu is with a flu vaccine. Flu vaccine offers children the best defense against flu and its potentially serious consequences. It can also reduce the spread of flu to others. Getting vaccinated has been shown to reduce flu illnesses, doctor's visits and missed school days.

Most importantly, flu vaccine significantly reduces a child's risk of severe influenza and death. The CDC reported 143 influenza-associated deaths among U.S. children occurred during the 2018-19 flu season. During the 2017-18 season, an estimated 80% of the 187 children in the U.S. who died from flu-associated complications had not been vaccinated against influenza.

The CDC recommendation is that everyone six months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year by the end of October. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue throughout flu season, even in January or later.

Keep in mind that vaccination is especially important for certain people who are high risk or who are in close contact with high-risk persons. This includes children at high risk of developing complications from flu illness, and adults who are close contacts of those children.

The types of flu vaccines for children are:

• Injectable influenza vaccine (IIV) is given as an injection (with a needle) and is approved for use in people six months and older.

• Live inactivated influenza vaccine (LAIV) is given as a nasal spray and is approved for use in people 2 through 49 years old. However, there is a precaution against the use of nasal spray flu vaccine (LAIV) in people with certain underlying medical conditions.

Flu vaccine is available at many health care offices and at all county health departments in the North Georgia Health District, which includes Cherokee, Fannin, Gilmer, Murray, Pickens and Whitfield counties. To contact the nearest county health department in north Georgia, log onto www.nghd.org and click the "Locations" tab.

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