SANTA FE — The New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH) is reporting that influenza is widespread across New Mexico and anticipates heightened activity for weeks to come.
Last season, 237 New Mexicans died of pneumonia and/or influenza and already 21 pneumonia and influenza deaths have been reported during the 2019-20 season. Flu symptoms may include rapid illness onset with fever, cough, sore throat, headache, and/or muscle aches.
The predominant virus circulating in the Southeast is influenza B Victoria, while the Metro region is seeing mostly influenza A(H1N1). Both of these strains are included in this season’s vaccine, and flu vaccines typically give very good protection against these types of influenza viruses.
“With the holidays approaching, it is important that people take preventive measures such as getting vaccinated, covering your cough, and staying home when sick,” said Department of Health Cabinet Secretary Kathyleen Kunkel. “Flu can infect anyone, including healthy people, and the holiday season is a perfect time for the flu to spread among family and friends. We have a responsibility to help protect those in our communities who may be at high risk of serious complications such as hospitalization and death.”
The Department of Health recommends the following measures to prevent spreading the flu over the holidays:
- Get your annual flu vaccine
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze
- Avoid close contact with sick people
- If you are sick, stay home and limit contact with other people
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
It is recommended everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine. With the peak of flu season still to come, getting a flu vaccination if you haven’t already gotten one, or even if you think you already had the flu this season, is important and can still protect you from illness. Flu vaccine protects against multiple strains of flu that may circulate at different times; and people can get infected with more than one type of flu during the season.
Influenza is particularly severe in people with one or more of the following conditions:
- Pregnant women (any trimester) and up to two weeks post-partum
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- People age 50 and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions like asthma, diabetes, and lung or heart disease and those with immunosuppression from medication or disease
- 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, including healthcare personnel and caregivers of babies younger than 6 months
- American Indians and Alaska Natives
- People who are morbidly obese
For people at high risk of severe complications who become sick with influenza-like illness, it is recommended they talk to their healthcare provider about antiviral medications. Antivirals, if started early, can help reduce the severity and duration of disease.
The Department of Health recommends that individuals talk with their healthcare provider or pharmacist about getting the flu vaccine. The Department offers vaccinations for people without insurance or who otherwise are not able to get vaccinated. Those with Medicaid or other insurance who go to Public Health Offices are asked to bring their insurance card. Influenza frequently causes types of pneumonia that can be prevented by the pneumococcal vaccine. Ask your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you need the pneumococcal vaccine, which can be given at the same time as flu vaccine, and is also recommended.