VALDOSTA – December means plenty of holiday parties and family gatherings; people shouldn't let the flu hold them back from the festivities this season. 

National Influenza Vaccination Week is Dec. 1-7 and the Georgia Department of Public Health encourages all Georgians to get their flu vaccine, health officials said.

“Flu season can begin as early as October and even last through May,” said Norma Jean Johnson, RN, county nurse manager. “The flu vaccine is the best defense we have against the flu. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine every year before flu activity begins in their community.”

What is new this flu season?

• Flu vaccines have been updated to better match circulating flu viruses.

• All regular-dose flu shots will be quadrivalent.

• All four of the vaccine viruses used to produce cell-grown flu vaccine will have been grown in cells, not eggs.

In January 2019, the FDA approved a change in dose volume for Fluzone Quadrivalent, a quadrivalent inactivated influenza vaccine.

The nasal spray flu vaccine is a vaccine option. People should ask health-care providers about what vaccine is right for them.

In the 2018-19 influenza season (Sept. 30, 2018 through May 18, 2019), four flu-related deaths were confirmed in the South Health District and 44 were confirmed throughout the state, health officials said.

Influenza can be a serious disease that leads to hospitalization and sometimes death, they said. Regardless of race, age, gender or ethnicity, anyone can get sick from the flu. Those especially at risk are adults 65 years of age and older, adults living in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, children younger than age 5, pregnant women and people with certain chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or other long-term medical conditions. 

Preventative actions such as people simply washing hands and covering their noses and mouths when sneezing or coughing can guard against the flu. In the 2018-19 influenza season, Georgia saw 44 deaths and 1,582 hospitalizations in the metro Atlanta area due to influenza infection, health officials said.

Getting a flu vaccine is more convenient than ever before. Vaccines are available at doctor's offices or local health department and at many retail pharmacies. Many employers, schools, colleges and universities also offer flu vaccines. 

CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has approved the live attenuated influenza vaccine, also known as the “nasal spray” flu vaccine, as an option during the 2019-20 flu season.

National Influenza Vaccination Week emphasizes the importance of receiving an annual flu vaccination, health officials said. Even healthy children and adults can get very sick from the flu. This winter, Georgia Department of Public Health encourages all Georgians to call their doctor’s office, local health department or pharmacy and get immunized. 

For more information on immunization, visit http://dph.georgia.gov/influenza-what-you-need-know.

For more information or to receive a flu vaccination, visit the Lowndes County Health Department, 206 S. Patterson St. or call (229) 333-5257.

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