Michelle Holmgren, Public Affairs & Community Relations Specialist
(Office) 413-967-2296 (Cell) 413-237-6743
For Immediate Release
Ware (September 13, 2013) The timing of flu is very unpredictable and can vary from season to season. Flu activity can begin as early as October and continue to occur as late as May, most commonly the flu peaks in the U.S. in January or February. To maintain optimal protection from the flu, Dr. Scott Siege, Medical Director of BMP-Quabbin Pediatrics is recommending that adults and children older than 6 months receive an influenza (flu) vaccination this fall.
“Children in particular are great germ spreaders and are vulnerable to colds, flu and other viruses since they come into contact with so many other children at daycare and school,” said Dr. Siege who notes that annually millions of people suffer from the cough, fever, aches, and pains caused by the flu, a highly contagious infection. “While it may seem too early to think about flu season, now is the time to get vaccinated against this highly contagious respiratory illness. We recommend getting it as soon as the vaccine is available, because it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to provide protection against the virus. Additionally, we now know that protection lasts through the whole flu season even when given as early as August,” Dr. Siege said.
For the past several months, U.S. public health officials including the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO), and pharmaceutical companies have been busy making and planning for the distribution of millions of doses of the flu vaccine to protect Americans in the upcoming season.
According to the CDC, each year an average of 20,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized because of influenza complications. “The flu vaccine saves lives and spares millions of people days, and sometimes weeks, of misery”, notes Dr. Siege, who notes that according to the CDC, between 5 and 20 percent of Americans get the flu each year, leading to 200,000 hospitalizations.
Among the two dozen vaccine-preventable diseases, including measles, mumps, polio, and whooping cough, seasonal influenza is the only one for which a new vaccine is required every year for proper protection. “Even if your child received the vaccine last year, that will not protect them from getting the flu this year,” said Dr. Siege. “The flu vaccine protection wears off and flu viruses constantly change. That is why the vaccine is updated each year to include the most current strains of the virus.”
“Children age 8 and younger who are receiving the flu vaccine for the first time need two doses of this year's flu vaccine given at least four weeks apart,” said Dr. Siege. “One dose is adequate for children age 9 and older and younger children who've been adequately vaccinated before. Children who need two doses of flu vaccine but only get one might not be protected from the flu.”
“Keep in mind that yearly flu vaccines are also important for family members and caregivers that are in close contact with children younger than age 5,” notes Dr. Siege. “Getting the vaccine not only helps protect against the flu, but it keeps those who are vaccinated from being a carrier of influenza and infecting others.”
“In addition to an annual flu shot, you can help to protect your children and family from the flu and other illnesses by avoiding large crowds whenever possible, practicing good hand washing, never picking up used tissues, never sharing cups and eating utensils, covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and staying home from work or school when someone is sick with the flu,” said Dr. Siege.
The Physician’s at Baystate Medical Practices - Quabbin Pediatric Practice include Dr. Scott Siege, Dr. Jeannette Tokarz and Dr. Kirti Nagpal. Located on the campus of Baystate Mary Lane Hospital in Ware, office hours are scheduled to accommodate the needs of working families, including evening hours Monday through Wednesday, and priority is given to same-day "sick visits". For more information or to schedule an appointment with one of the pediatricians at Baystate Medical Practice – Quabbin Pediatrics please call 413-967-2040.