The beginning of flu season is just around the corner and health officials are urging residents to take proper precautions to help prevent the spread of the virus.
While the flu season doesn’t peak until January, individual cases begin surfacing as early as October. For that reason, the CDC and health care officials are encouraging everyone to get flu vaccinations now. This flu season, according to Kathie Johnson, nurse with the Sampson County Health Department, the CDC is expecting an increase in flu activity in the coming weeks. The flu is expected to cause illness, doctor’s visits, hospital stays and even deaths in the United States.
Johnson said those over six months of age are recommended to receive the yearly flu vaccine, as more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die from complications associated with the flu.
Once the vaccine is received, Johnson said it does take time to begin working.
“The Influenza vaccine takes approximately two to four weeks to build enough immunity in the body to protect someone against the flu virus,” Johnson said. “That is why the Sampson County Health Department is encouraging everyone to get the vaccination. Getting vaccinated is key for preventing you from getting the flu. Influenza can potentially be a very serious illness and is highly contagious. Getting yourself vaccinated will not only protect you from getting the flu, but will protect those that live or work with you.”
Seasonal flu vaccinations are especially important for people at high risk of serious flu complications, including young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, and people 65 years and older. It is also important for healthcare workers, and other people who live with or care for high risk people to protect them from getting sick.
“Different flu viruses circulate and cause illness each season,” Johnson explained. “The flu vaccine is changed every year to protect you against the flu virus. The CDC tracks the various strains of flu and change the vaccines to help fight the most common strains that are found each year. This means the flu vaccine is different every year, just like the different strains of the flu that are around each year. That’s why it is so important to get your flu vaccine year after year.”
Many people say they feel the vaccination doesn’t work or may not target the flu strain that is prevalent at the time.
“While it is possible that the flu vaccine may not fully protect you against all of the flu viruses that are around each year, it does help boost your immune system to help fight against those you may be exposed to,” Johnson added. “The flu vaccine will also help reduce the symptoms if you do get the flu.”
Local pharmacies and physician offices are offering flu vaccinations daily.
Johnson encourages those who are experiencing flu-like symptoms, such as fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting, to contact a local pharmacy or physician immediately.
In addition to receiving the flu vaccination, Johnson says there are other steps one can take to help prevent someone from getting the flu.
Johnson encourages people to wash their hands. Hand washing, she said, is the number one step in infection control. Hands harbor millions of bacteria just from every day use.
“Frequent hand-washing is one of the best ways to protect yourself,” Johnson said. ” Your hands are covered in millions of bacteria daily just from the normal things you do every day, so washing them often helps protect you. You should wash your hands with regular soap and warm water for at least 20-30 seconds.”
Another preventative measure, according to Johnson, is to cover coughs and sneezes with an arm. This will prevent the spread of germs to other people.
The health department nurse also encourages people to stay at home if they are sick, especially if running a fever. This will allow time to rest and get better and will also prevent infecting anyone else.
Fore more information on the flu vaccination, contact your local physician, the health department or a local pharmacy.
Reach Kristy D. Carter at 910-592-8137, ext. 2588. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd. Like us on Facebook.