More flu vaccine available

The state Department of Public Health today announced that it has temporarily expanded the availability of state-supplied seasonal flu vaccine to include all children 5 through 18 years of age, regardless of their insurance status. Residents who have not yet been vaccinated are encouraged to get the flu vaccine.

"The flu can cause severe illness and complications among our most vulnerable residents, including children," Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said in a news release. "We must be proactive in protecting our children from the flu and continue to vaccinate as many children as we can, which is why we are making the state's vaccine supply available to all of Connecticut's children."

The health department's most recent flu activity report shows that emergency department visits and outpatient visits related to influenza and influenza-like illness remain at high levels throughout the state. The state has seen a large increase in influenza-related hospitalizations during the past six weeks. Thus far this season, there have been 2,456 laboratory-confirmed reports of influenza and 467 influenza-related hospitalizations.

"We continue to see widespread flu activity and high levels of flu-related hospitalizations across the state," state health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen said. "Getting a flu shot is still the best tool we have to protect people from the flu and prevent serious flu-related illness."

Before today's announcement, seasonal flu vaccine was available through the Connecticut Vaccine Program to all children aged six months to 59 months of age and to Medicaid-enrolled, uninsured or underinsured children 5 through 18 years of age. For the remainder of the flu season, vaccine will be available to providers who are enrolled in the CVP for all of Connecticut's children.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourage everyone over six months old to be vaccinated. Vaccines are encouraged for everyone, but especially for high-risk groups, including children from 6 months to18 years of age, women who will be pregnant during the flu season, people at least 50 years old, anyone with certain chronic medical conditions and people who live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

Residents of the state's largest cities, especially those who are poor and live in densely populated areas, may be at more risk of developing serious complications from the flu than other state residents, the state health department said. People living in urban communities are strongly encouraged to get vaccinated for the flu.

To find out where to get a flu vaccine, the health department advises people to ask their regular health care provider; visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder at: http://flushot.healthmap.org/ or check with your local public health department.

For information on flu and vaccination, visit: www.ct.gov/dph.

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