South Dakota Dept. of Health urges flu shots this holiday season - KSFY News - Sioux Falls, SD News, Weather, Sports

South Dakota Dept. of Health urges flu shots this holiday season

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The South Dakota Department of Health is recommending flu shots for this holiday season.

National Influenza Vaccination Week is December 2-8, and according to State Epidemiologist Lon Kightlinger it's a good reminder that getting vaccinated is the single best way to protect you and your loved ones from the flu.

"Even healthy kids and adults can get very sick from the flu and its complications can lead to hospitalization and even death," Kightlinger said in a news release.

According to the South Dakota Department of Health, there have been 97 laboratory-confirmed cases of flu and 16 flu-related hospitalizations in the state this year. Kightlinger suggests the number of cases is higher because not everyone seeks medical care or gets tested when they feel ill.

During the 2011-2012 season, 51.1 percent of South Dakotans over the age of six 6 months were vaccinated against the flu—which is the highest rate in the nation.

"That's good news, but there are still too many South Dakotans who don't get vaccinated," Kightlinger said.

Annual flu vaccination is recommended for everyone, but some are at higher risk for complications – pregnant women, people over 50 years and people with chronic medical conditions. Health-care workers and household contacts of high-risk populations such as those with young infants should also be vaccinated.

Children are another high risk group, accounting for significant cases and hospitalizations each year and helping spread flu in the community. The South Dakota Department of Health offers free flu vaccine for kids from six months to 18 years.

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