The New Jersey Department of Health is reminding residents to get vaccinated against influenza to protect themselves and their loved ones.
“Flu vaccination is the single most important step we can take to protect ourselves and our families against infection,” said Department of Health Acting Commissioner Judith Persichilli. “Given the vulnerable population in our long-term care facilities, I appreciate the commitment of Morris Hall to ensure high vaccination rates among staff to protect residents and healthcare personnel.”
Flu vaccine is mandatory on the Morris Hall campus with the exception of a religious or medical exemption. The vaccination rate for staff at the facility was at 96 percent December 2018 and reached 99 percent January 2019. More than 96 percent of residents at the facility were vaccinated against the flu as January 2019.
The Department is continuing its #FightTheFluNJ campaign to encourage residents to get vaccinated and take steps to protect themselves, which included posters, social media, and public events.
As part of the overall campaign, the Department currently has two initiatives to help promote flu prevention among our partners, the New Jersey Influenza Honor Roll and the New Jersey College & University Flu Challenge. The Honor Roll recognizes institutions who encourage and promote flu prevention within their communities across the state. There are four eligible categories to participate: businesses, community-based organizations, institutions of education, and healthcare facilities. Additional information about the initiative and the application form are available at: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/edu_training/vpdp_flu_honor_roll.shtml. At this site, you can also view campaign ideas from previous awardees.
The Flu Challenge is a separate initiative designed to engage college students in a friendly competition to improve flu vaccination coverage on their campuses. The winner of last year’s challenge was The College of New Jersey. The Department is currently enrolling schools for participation in the 2019-2020 challenge. The winner will be announced in March 2020. More information on the challenge can be found at: https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/edu_training/vpdp_flu_challenge.shtml.
Seasonal flu activity often begins as early as October and November and can continue to occur as late as May. Flu activity most commonly peaks in the United States between December and February.
During the 2018-2019 flu season, New Jersey experienced a lengthy influenza season with widespread activity occurring for 15 weeks between December and April. The circulation of two different influenza A viruses (i.e., A 2009 H1N1 and A H3) occurring in two different waves contributed to the extended period of activity, which resulted in above average increases in outpatient visits as well as hospitalization. New Jersey also received reports of six flu-associated deaths and 51 severe influenza-associated hospitalizations among children less than 18 years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older. Certain people are at greater risk for serious complications from the flu. Those at high risk include:
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old;
- People 65 years of age and older;
- Pregnant women and women up to 2 weeks after end of pregnancy;
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives; and,
- People who have medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, and diabetes.
Flu vaccination should also be a priority for those individuals who live with or care for individuals at higher risk for influenza-related complications. This includes healthcare personnel and household contacts of children less than six months of age, since these children are too young to receive the flu vaccine.
“The Department continues to recommend that individuals also take necessary precautions like washing their hands frequently, covering coughs and sneezes, and staying home when sick,” said Persichilli. “If you do get sick, ask your healthcare provider if antiviral medications are right for you. These medications can shorten the length of time you are sick.”
The symptoms of flu include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, and fatigue.
The New Jersey Department of Health works closely with the healthcare and public health community to conduct surveillance for seasonal and novel influenza and collects information on influenza-like illness weekly from hospital emergency departments and long-term care facilities, and also collects absenteeism information from schools. Information about these surveillance systems along with weekly reports describing influenza activity are available at https://www.nj.gov/health/cd/statistics/flu-stats/.
For more information about influenza, including where to find the vaccine, visit the Department’s flu website at http://nj.gov/health/cd/topics/flu.shtml.
Many local health departments hold free flu clinics for residents of their municipalities, their contact information can be found on this site: www.localhealth.nj.gov.
The Department held flu vaccination clinics on October 3 and 4 to give employees convenient access to get immunized.