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WRITER: JESSIE ROLPHCONTACT: DAVE PEDERSEN
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Iowa City IA 52242
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e-mail: david-pedersen@uiowa.edu

Release:Oct. 7, 2002

UI pediatrician urges flu shots for young children

A University of Iowa pediatrician is urging parents of children ages 6 months to 23 months to have their children vaccinated for influenza this fall.

The recommendation by Jody Murph, M.D., UI associate professor of pediatrics, reinforces Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines stating that children in this age group should receive flu shots. According to the CDC, children ages 6 months to 23 months are at a greater risk for flu-related hospitalizations.

"Even if your child is healthy, it is a good idea to schedule a flu shot to maintain the child's health, prevent serious disease or hospitalization, and help prevent the spread of influenza to others," Murph said.

The National Immunization Program (NIP) of the CDC also recommends that household contacts and out-of-home caregivers for children younger than age 2 get the vaccine to prevent exposing young infants and toddlers to the flu. While children under 6 months old cannot receive influenza vaccinations, they can catch the flu, which can pose serious health risks for infants.

The NIP recommends that children ages 6 months to 23 months, as well as caregivers and people who have household contact with a child, should receive the vaccination in October or November, although December is not too late. Children from 6 months to 8 years old who receive a flu shot for the first time will also need a booster shot one month after the first shot. Therefore, to best ensure protection against the flu, parents should have their children vaccinated as early as possible, Murph said.

According to the CDC, in addition to children ages 6 months to 23 months, other groups at higher risk from flu-related complications or severe illness include: adults age 65 and older; adults and children with chronic health problems such as asthma, kidney disease, heart disease or diabetes; adults or children with HIV/AIDS or those receiving medical treatment that can weaken the immune system (such as chemotherapy); children who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy; and women who will be at least three months pregnant during the flu season.

However, almost everyone can benefit from a flu shot, Murph noted.

"The flu vaccine is the most effective way to protect against influenza and its complications," she said.

For more information on flu vaccinations, visit the CDC Web site at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/flu/fluvirus.htm.

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