The Florida Department of Health in Santa Rosa County (DOH-Santa Rosa) would like to remind everyone that it is not too late to get a flu shot. The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months of age and older, especially those at high risk of serious complications from the flu, including those with chronic health conditions, and women who are pregnant or may become pregnant.
Because of the severe impact the flu has been having on pregnant women and their babies, Medicaid is temporarily covering the cost of flu shots for pregnant women age 21 and older through March 31, 2014. However, payment is only authorized for flu shots administered at a county health department location or doctor's office. Shots given at pharmacies are not covered.
For pregnant women, complications from the flu can be serious, causing hospitalization, premature labor and delivery, and even death. The flu vaccine protects not only the mother but the baby as well for up to six months after birth.
"We know that the predominant strain of flu this year is 2009 H1N1, and that it is hitting pregnant women especially hard, " said Sandra Park-O'Hara, A.R.N.P., administrator of DOH-Santa Rosa.
"Getting a flu shot is the most important step pregnant women can take to protect themselves and their babies from the flu." The 2013-2014 seasonal flu vaccine includes the component for 2009 H1N1.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and, in some cases, vomiting and diarrhea. In addition to the flu shot, which offers the best protection against the flu, DOH-Santa Rosa encourages these precautions:
· Wash your hands frequently with warm water and soap. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand sanitizer.
· Cover sneezes and coughs with a disposable tissue and throw the tissue away after use, or sneeze or cough into your elbow or sleeve.
· Stay home if you are sick, except to seek medical attention. If you begin to experience flu-like symptoms, contact your health care provider right away. Your provider may be able to prescribe an antiviral medicine that treats the flu.
For more information on pregnant women and influenza, visit the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/vaccine/pregnant.htm.