Flu vaccine can reduce seasonal illness
Summer is coming to an end and with that, flu season is just around the corner. Now is the time to start making plans to receive the flu vaccine, which offers the best protection against becoming sick with the seasonal illness.
Residents should get the flu vaccine before the virus begins spreading in the community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against the flu to develop in the body. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests getting the vaccine before the end of October. However, getting the vaccine later is still beneficial.
Children who need two doses of vaccine to protect against the flu should start the vaccination process sooner as the two doses must be given at least four weeks apart.
“It’s unusual to see flu outbreaks this early in the season, but we’ve seen two fairly active seasons the past two years,” said Eileen Dawley, RN, chief nursing officer. “It’s better to go ahead and get your flu vaccine early rather than later so that you have the best protection.”
People 6 months and older should be vaccinated for the flu. Vaccination is especially important for certain high-risk groups including those age 65 and older, pregnant women, young children and those with chronic health conditions who are at higher risk for complications or even death if they get the flu.
Vaccination is also important for health care workers and others who live with or care for high risk people to keep from spreading the flu to them.
The flu vaccine does not cause flu illness, as some may think, Dawley said. The viruses in the flu shot are inactivated, meaning they are dead, so they cannot cause an infection.
While the flu spreads every year, the timing and length of the season varies from one year to another, as do the flu viruses that will circulate. There are many different flu viruses and they are constantly changing. Composition of the U.S. flu vaccines is reviewed annually as needed to match circulating flu viruses.
Remember to stop spread of the flu and other illnesses by covering all coughs and sneezes with elbows, washing hands frequently, disinfecting commonly touched surfaces and staying home when sick.
Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people, especially children, may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may also be infected with flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
The flu vaccine can reduce flu illness and flu-related hospitalizations. Flu vaccinations can reduce doctor visits, missed days at work and missed days at school,” Dawley added. “It is important to get your flu vaccine each year. Your immune protection from vaccination drops over time so yearly vaccines help make sure you have the best protection available against the flu.”
Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs:
• Try to avoid close contact with those who are sick.
• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
• If sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities.
• Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue away after use and wash hands.
• Wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
• Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu.
The flu is a potentially serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and flu infection can affect people differently. The exact timing and duration of flu seasons can vary, but flu activity often begins to increase in October. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May.