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Public Health and Children's Emphasize Importance of Flu Shots for Infants and Children

December 04, 2003

Early flu season highlights importance of flu vaccination.

Early flu season highlights importance of flu vaccination.

KING COUNTY, WA – Today, Public Health - Seattle & King County and Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center are emphasizing the importance of flu vaccinations for infants and children this flu season.

"Influenza in children of all ages can cause severe infections leading to missed school, doctor visits and hospitalizations. Hospitalization rates for preschoolers are similar to the hospitalization rates among high-risk adults. Now is the time to use the flu vaccine to protect children at high-risk for serious complications from the flu," said Dr. Jeff Duchin, Chief of Communicable Disease, Epidemiology and Immunization Section for Public Health - Seattle & King County.

Indicators from Public Health's influenza monitoring program, including school absenteeism, reports from health care providers and the Public Health Laboratory show an earlier influenza season than usual is underway. Other areas of the country are also reporting earlier and potentially more serious influenza seasons than usual.

At Children's Hospital, doctors have already identified influenza as the cause of illness in 67 patients in the last two months, most of whom required hospitalization. In comparison, during last year's entire flu season, Children's identified flu as the cause of illness in a total of 60 patients.

"We have seen a spike in the numbers of patients with the flu coming to Children's Hospital already this year," said Dr. Ed Marcuse, associate medical director at Children's Hospital and Regional Medical Center. "We strongly urge parents to speak with their child's primary care physician about vaccinating their children against flu now. It is particularly important to vaccinate those age 6 to 24 months who are among those with the highest risk for complicated flu."

Public Health officials and Children's experts stress the importance of vaccinations for:

· Everyone 6 months and older with chronic diseases of the heart, lung (including asthma) or kidneys, diabetes, or immunosuppression including HIV infection
· Children (6 months -18 years of age) who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
· Children who are household contacts of other children or adults with high-risk medical conditions because children most often are the ones who bring flu into a household
· Children aged 6-23 months who are at substantially increased risk for influenza-related hospitalizations
· Household contacts and out-of-home caretakers of young children up to 23 months of age (particularly those caring for children age 0-6 months who are to young to be vaccinated)

In addition, flu vaccine may also be used in consultation with a health care provider for any other persons aged 6 months and older who wish to reduce their risk of influenza infection.

Influenza is a highly contagious illness causing an average of 36,000 deaths and 114,000 hospitalizations per year in the United States; pneumonia is the most common complication in high-risk groups. Influenza, unlike the common cold, has a swift onset of severe symptoms beginning with two to seven days of fever, headache, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, runny nose and sore throat, and a cough that is often severe and may last seven days or more.

Where to go for flu shots and costs

Flu shots are now available at regular doctors' offices and clinics, at your nearest Public Health clinic, and through many health care providers at convenient locations throughout King County. Some providers may also have the live attenuated intranasal vaccine available. For information about Public Health clinic sites and hours, call the Public Health Hotline at 206-296-4949. For a list of other centers that offer flu shots throughout the county, visit: http://www.metrokc.gov/health/immunization/fluseason.htm


The federal and state funded Vaccines for Children program that subsidizes the cost of children's vaccines at most health care clinics now includes funding for flu vaccine for certain children in the following categories:
· all children from 6-23 months of age
· children from 24 months of age up to the 19th birthday who meet high-risk criteria
· children less than 19 years of age who are household contacts or caregivers of infants 0-24 months of age, or children with high-risk conditions

Families may want to check with their clinic or physician about this program.
Flu and pneumococcal vaccines are covered by Medicare Part B. If you have Medicare coverage and belong to a managed care plan or HMO, you should go to your regular health care provider. If you do not have Medicare insurance, the fee for a flu shot at Public Health - Seattle & King County clinics is $20.00 and for the pneumococcal pneumonia vaccine is $28.00, with a sliding scale based on income. Costs vary for flu and pneumococcal vaccines through other providers.
Additional information on influenza vaccine for children and adults is available on the Public Health – Seattle & King County influenza website, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention influenza website.
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Other information about the flu may be found on Children's website.

About Seattle Children’s

Consistently ranked as one of the best children’s hospitals in the country by U.S. News & World Report, Seattle Children’s serves as the pediatric and adolescent academic medical referral center for the largest landmass of any children’s hospital in the country (Washington, Alaska, Montana and Idaho). For more than 100 years, Seattle Children’s has been delivering superior patient care while advancing new treatments through pediatric research. Seattle Children’s serves as the primary teaching, clinical and research site for the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Washington School of Medicine. The hospital works in partnership with Seattle Children’s Research Institute and Seattle Children’s Hospital Foundation. For more information, visit www.seattlechildrens.org or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

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