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Kids are 'super spreaders' of flu, now is time for everyone to get vaccinated, health experts say

Updated: October 07, 2019 06:53 PM

Now is the time to for people of all ages to get their flu shot.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all children ages 6 months and older are vaccinated for influenza for the 2019-2020 season, preferably by the end of October, with either the flu shot or the nasal spray vaccine.

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The AAP expresses no preference for the shot or the nasal spray vaccine this season, in accordance with guidance provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as described in the policy statement, "Recommendations for Prevention and Control of Influenza in Children, 2019-2020."

"Last year in the U.S., we saw 135 children die from influenza," said nurse practitioner Patsy Stinchfield, senior director of infection control at Children's Minnesota. "Here at Children's Minnesota, we have seen, sort of every parent's nightmare come into the hospital. Some children have died here as well. We really want everyone to get their flu vaccine to prevent this terrible disease."

According to Stinchfield, everyone is at risk for influenza. You can spread flu for 24 hours before you know you're sick, which means you can make other people sick without knowing it. That's why doctors say everyone should get vaccinated.

"Because the more of us who get vaccinated the better the impact the flu vaccine will be," said Stinchfield. "And of the people who are the super spreaders, it's kids in school. So, kindergarteners through high schoolers, make sure you're getting your shots."

The best way to keep children healthy and in school is to get the flu vaccine by the end of October. And if your child is under 9 years old and has never been vaccinated, Stinchfield said they'll need two shots about a month apart.

Experts say the flu vaccine is readily available for people of all ages, and there are many different varieties this year. For example, high doses for the elderly, egg-free for people with allergies, a nasal mist and shots.

"It's really important to get your flu vaccine and to get it every year," said Stinchfield. "Flu is a terrible virus, it changes itself every year."

According to Stinchfield, on average, the flu vaccine is about 45% effective. The type that's used is actually a best guess on what kind of influenza will be circulating this winter.

"So every year, the World Health Organization is watching what's happening in the southern hemisphere and they're looking and testing what type of virus is circulating and predict what is going to come here to the United States," she said.

It's too early to know how effective this year's flu vaccine is. But regardless, Stinchfield said people who receive the vaccine have a 75% reduced chance of getting so sick they end up in the hospital.

Stinchfield adds, babies can't be vaccinated until they're 6 months old. And, because the flu can have long-term impacts on infants, it's important that anyone who is around a newborn get the flu vaccine.

Children's Minnesota offers flu vaccines for kids and adults at its walk-in clinic. You can also get them at many pharmacies, and oftentimes where you work.

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Kevin Doran

Copyright 2019 - KSTP-TV, LLC A Hubbard Broadcasting Company

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