Vaccination time has arrived

Doctors hoping residents get inoculations

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— October is prime flu vaccination time for children and the elderly.

Local physicians hope the month does not pass without people taking steps to prevent the spread of influenza among their children and loved ones.

Dr. Steven A. Ross of Sleeping Bear Pediatrics stressed the 2001-02 influenza season was moderate compared to the approaching flu season.

"This winter is going to be a bear," Ross said.

A summer of fires and air pollution has not helped the situation either, he added.

Influenza is a respiratory illness with symptoms such as prominent fever, headaches and muscle aches.

A secondary bacterial pneumonia, sinus problems and occasional ear infection can complicate the viral infection.

Influenza is highly contagious and people infected by the virus are most infectious 24 hours before symptoms begin to show.

Ross said he would like to alert the public to the importance of flu shots.

"We're really trying to beat the drums," he said.

And he's not just beating an empty drum.

Flu shots decrease the chances of mortality among Routt County's youngest residents, he said.

Many infants are born premature in the county and their weak immune systems make them more susceptible to disease.

Flu vaccinations can save lives, Ross said.

Lisa Famiglietti, a nurse at Pediatrics of Steamboat, said recent studies show children between the ages of six and 23 months have the highest rate of hospitalization because of influenza.

Parents of children in that age group should make flu vaccinations a priority in October, she said.

Children under the age of 9 who have never had a flu shot require a follow-up vaccination a month later.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta has recommended for the first time this year that parents have children between three and 23 months immunized against the flu.

Flu shots are available at the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.

VNA public health nurse Pam Nettleton said the state has a full supply of flu vaccinations this year.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment kicked off the flu season Tuesday. State public health workers are encouraging individuals who are at risk for influenza to get their flu shots now.

"What we are trying to do is (give) vaccines to the high risk population in October and then go for the general public in November," Nettleton said.

High risk individuals include people aged 50 and older, women in their second trimester of pregnancy, nursing home residents and adults and children six months and older with chronic heart and respiratory problems such as asthma, diabetes, kidney disease or weakened immune deficiencies.

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