The winter months are approaching and along with it the influenza (flu) season.
Flu, a contagious respiratory illness triggered by viruses, infects the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and can lead to death, especially in the young or elderly.
Between December and February every year, flu leaves thousands of Americans needing life-or-death treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU) even if the virus is circulating at unusually low levels.
Senior doctors and local health departments say the best way to lessen the effects of flu is to get vaccinated. Flu vaccination has been shown to significantly reduce serious risks to children.
“I would urge anyone who requires vaccination but has not yet had it to get vaccinated as soon as possible,” said Ashley Thomas, health education program consultant with the Florida Department of Health in Brooksville.
For the 2019-2020 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and its Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) are recommending an annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. An annual flu vaccine shot is the first and most important step in protecting against influenza and its potentially serious complications.
While there are many different flu viruses each year, flu vaccines will protect against the 3 or 4 viruses that research suggests will be most common.
Check out the tips and resources below to learn about how to protect yourself and others from the flu and help stop the spread of germs.
Everyday steps to prevent the spread of flu
Practicing good hygiene by properly and frequently washing your hands will help prevent the spread of seasonal flu. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as germs are spread this way. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
Flu can infect others before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick — people with flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins.
Some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning a day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick.
Young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others for an even longer time.
Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. People who have the flu often feel some of these symptoms: fever or feeling feverish/chills; cough; sore throat; muscle or body aches; headaches and fatigue.
Anyone can get sick with flu at any age (including healthy people). Some people will show mild symptoms and recover in less than two weeks. Other people, however, are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections, for example.
At risk people include people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women and children younger than 5 years, especially those younger than 2 years old. If you do fall sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
What should I do if I think I am sick with the flu?
If you get sick with flu, check with your doctor immediately and ask about antiviral drugs as a treatment option. The doctor may prescribe antiviral drugs to treat your flu illness.
Antiviral drugs are a second line of defense that can be used to treat flu (including seasonal flu and variant flu viruses) if you get sick.
Antiviral treatment works best when started soon after flu illness begins. When treatment is started within two days of becoming sick, antiviral drugs can lessen fever and flu symptoms, and shorten the time you are sick by about one day. They have also been shown to reduce the risk of further complications.
Benefits of a flu shot
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone six months and older, including pregnant women. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop protective antibodies against the flu and can reduce flu-related illnesses, doctor visits, missed work and school, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalization. Receiving your flu vaccination if you are healthy helps to prevent illness in our most vulnerable populations as well.
Help put the flu vaccine between you and the disease this year by receiving your vaccination today. Use the health department’s Flu Shot Locator to find a location to receive your flu vaccine. For more information, visit FluFreeFlorida.com.
Where to get your flu shot
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