Amid one of the highest flu levels in recent history, the Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) has extended the age limit for state-supplied flu vaccines from 59 months to 18 years old, regardless of their insurance.
The previous policy made free flu shots available to all children ages 6 months to 59 months (just shy of five years old), however the temporary order, issued Thursday, broadens that to include everyone who is not legally an adult.
“We continue to see widespread flu activity and high levels of flu-related hospitalizations across the state,” DPH 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.”
According to a recent report issued by the DPH, there have been 2,456 confirmed cases of the flu and 467 related hospitalizations statewide so far this season. The flu level this season is still below the peak year of 2007-08 but higher than the last two years.
“The flu can cause severe illness and complications among our most vulnerable residents, including children,” Gov. Dannel Malloy said. “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 DPH is urging all residents to get vaccinated, particularly “high-risk groups,” such as children, as well as women who will be pregnant, people over 50 and those with chronic health conditions.
The department also issued the following guidelines for flu season:
To get vaccinated for the flu:
- Check with your regular heath care provider to see if they have the flu vaccine available.
- Visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder at flushot.healthmap.org to find a flu clinic near you.
- Check with your local health department. You can find your local health department at ct.gov/dph/localhealth.
Whether you get the flu vaccine or not, there are ways you can avoid the flu this year and stay healthy:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.
- Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Call your healthcare provider immediately if you develop flu symptoms to determine if a medical evaluation is necessary; antiviral medications can help if taken early in the illness.