SANTA FE – The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) reported Thursday that it has confirmed the state’s first flu death for the 2013-2014 season.
The death reported was a 76-year-old Santa Fe County woman.
“Please remember that the best way to protect yourself and the elderly from the flu is to get vaccinated,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Retta Ward, MPH. “As flu activity increases in New Mexico, it’s important for anyone who has not yet been vaccinated against the flu to contact their healthcare provider or pharmacist about getting a flu shot.”
The predominant circulating flu strain in New Mexico and the United States is influenza H1N1. This strain was first identified in 2009 and may cause severe illness even in healthy young adults. NMDOH is urging everyone 6 months of age and older to get a flu vaccine. The vaccine is currently available and protects against H1N1 and other strains of flu.
The Department of Health has 29 providers statewide that report influenza-like illnesses (fever with cough or sore throat) from October through May. Providers that participate in this surveillance network reported at the end of December 2013 that 6.2 percent of their patient visits were for influenza-like illness and that percentage rose to 7 percent statewide in early January.
Influenza is a highly transmittable disease whose symptoms include sudden onset of fever, muscle pain, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea (more common in children than adults.) These symptoms develop within a few days after exposure to the flu virus. There are antiviral medications to treat influenza infections. To be most effective, medication should be started quickly after you become ill.
Influenza vaccination is recommended for all people over 6 months of age who are eligible for vaccination and especially:
- Pregnant women (any trimester)
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, lung or heart disease
- People who don’t have a normal immune system
- People who live in nursing homes and other long‐term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives
- People who are morbidly obese
- Healthcare personnel
The Department offers vaccinations for people without insurance or who are otherwise not able to get immunized. Those with Medicaid or other insurance who come to Public Health Offices are asked to present their insurance card.
To find out more about flu vaccination clinics throughout New Mexico, call the Immunization Hotline toll free at 866.681.5872. For more information about influenza, visit http://nmhealth.org/flu/index.shtml