Fighting The Flu Bug
A column by Gov. Dennis Daugaard:
Last January, our most recent granddaughter, Greta, was born. She joined her sister, Stella, and has two cousins, Henry and Elizabeth. Linda and I love to spend time with our grandchildren, when we can, and we want them all to be happy and healthy. As one way to help insure that, Linda and I received our flu vaccination this past week. It’s something we do every fall to make sure we protect our health and that of our grandchildren.
This year I’m encouraging all South Dakotans to help stop the flu bug by getting a flu vaccination. The flu is nothing to sniff at. Last year was South Dakota’s deadliest flu season in modern surveillance history, with 1,703 lab-confirmed cases, 793 hospitalizations and 63 deaths.
Surveillance data shows that children account for a significant number of flu cases and related hospitalizations every year. They also help spread influenza in community settings like schools and child care centers. That’s why the state offers free flu vaccine for those who are between six months and 18 years old.
An annual flu vaccination is the single most important thing we can do to prevent the flu. And we need it every year because the flu virus changes every year. Flu vaccine, like any medical treatment, is not 100 percent effective. However, if you do get vaccinated and still catch the flu bug, that vaccine could mean a shorter and less severe illness.
South Dakotans have a history of taking care of themselves when it comes to vaccination. We have some of the highest childhood vaccination levels in the nation and I’m proud to say that our overall flu vaccination rates are also among the best. Last season 59.6 percent of us got vaccinated for the flu, the highest rate in the nation for the second season in a row. In fact, South Dakota had the nation’s highest flu vaccination rate for four of the last five seasons.
The doctors, nurses and other providers who work hard every year to ensure people get vaccinated can rightly be pleased that South Dakota’s coverage rates lead the nation. But we recognize that there are still too many people who aren’t getting vaccinated.
Don’t make the mistake of thinking the flu isn’t a serious illness. The headache, fever, chills, coughing and body aches can be very severe and for some people, can lead to complications like pneumonia that may require hospitalization.
The medical community recommends yearly flu vaccination for everyone over the age of six months. Vaccination is especially important for those who are at higher risk for flu complications – pregnant women, people over age 50, people with chronic medical conditions like heart disease and health care workers.
Infants are too young to be vaccinated, so we can best protect infants by getting vaccinated ourselves, especially if we have infants in our households. For your own health and the health of those you love, contact your local clinic today about getting vaccinated for the flu. Let’s all do what we can to stop the flu bug.
Learn more about what you can do to stop the flu at flu.sd.gov.