Vaccines help protect during flu season

By: By Kathie Johnson, RN - Health Department

Local health care officials, as well as officials from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, are recommending those over six months of age receive the yearly flu vaccine.

This year’s number of cases are low to date according to the CDC. Flu season usually peaks in January-March. The CDC and health care officials are encouraging everyone to begin getting their flu vaccinations. Each year, the flu causes illness, doctor’s visits, hospital stays and even deaths in the United States. According to the CDC, each year in the U.S., more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 people die from seasonal flu complications.

The Influenza vaccine takes approximately 2-4 weeks to build enough immunity in the body to protect someone against the flu virus. 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 get vaccinated protect those that are at high risk from getting sick.

Different flu viruses circulate and cause illness each season. The flu vaccine is changed every year to protect you against the flu virus. WHO and CDC track 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. This is why it is so important to get your flu vaccine year after year.

While it is possible that the flu vaccine may not fully protect you against the 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. The flu vaccine will also help reduce the symptoms if you do get the flu. If you think you have the flu, contact your medical provider immediately.

Older adults and those with certain medical conditions are encouraged to get vaccinated for Pneumonia. There are now two different types of Pneumonia vaccines available: one is the Pneumococcal-23 and the other is Prevnar-13. Both vaccines are highly recommended for those at risk. If you are 65 and older or have a medical condition, such as COPD, diabetes, heart disease or an immune disorder, talk to your medical provider about receiving both of the vaccines.

In addition, there are other steps that people can take to help prevent getting the flu, colds or many other viruses that are so prevalent in the winter months. People are indoors more often and are exposed to others more frequently because they are in a closed environment.

Frequent handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself. 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. If you sing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” to yourself twice while you are washing your hands, you will have washed them for the 20-30 seconds.

Use your elbow: if you don’t have a tissue immediately available, cough or sneeze in the crook of your elbow, not in your hands. This avoids adding those germs to your hands when you cough or sneeze.

If you are sick, stay home, especially if you have a fever. This allows you time to recover from your illness and also prevents you spreading your illness to others. You may need to contact your medical provider if you have a fever, especially if you have a high-risk medical condition.

For more information on the Flu vaccination or to schedule an appointment to get your vaccine, contact the Sampson County Health Department at 910-592-1131, ext. 4001 or 4220.

By Kathie Johnson, RN

Health Department