It’s the holiday season, that means flu season
The holiday season is in full swing. However, not only is it the holiday season, but it is also flu season and simple steps can help lower the risks of you and your family contracting the flu. It is especially important for families to be protected from the flu because children are at high risk for acquiring the flu or developing flu-related complications because their immune systems are not fully developed.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends flu vaccination as the single best measure for flu prevention; yet, only 5-20 percent (600,000 to 2,400,000) of Pennsylvanians get the flu vaccine each year according to estimates from the Pennsylvania Department of Health. No flu activity has been reported in Pennsylvania so far this flu season, according to the CDC. That means there is plenty of time for people to get vaccinated. It is recommended that people get vaccinated as early as possible in the season to help prevent the spread of seasonal flu.
During the holidays, before gatherings with family and close friends, it’s important to be mindful of the threat of the virus as well as the importance of vaccination, and keep in mind some simple steps that can lower the risks of contracting the flu, such as washing your mouth when coughing or sneezing.
The seasonal flu
The seasonal flu is an acute viral infection caused by a flu virus that spreads easily from person to person. It is characterized by a sudden onset of high fever, cough (usually dry), headache, muscle and joint pain, severe malaise (feeling unwell), sore throat and runny nose. Most experts believe that the flu is passed from person to person when people with flu either cough, sneeze or talk. It also spreads by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.
People at high risk of serious flu complications include: young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or heart and lung disease, and people aged 65 years and older.
As a parent or caregiver, be sure to seek information from your healthcare provider if you have questions or concerns.
The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu. All flu vaccines work by helping your body to make special proteins, called antibodies that your immune system uses to fight off the flu virus. On average, these antibodies are activated within about two weeks after you are vaccinated.
Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctor visits and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. There are several flu vaccine options available for the 2015-2016 flu season, including trivalent vaccines, which cover three strains of the flu virus, and quadrivalent vaccines, which cover four strains of the flu virus. Four-strain flu vaccines may offer you broader coverage by covering an additional strain.
Protect yourself and your family around the home
Other ways to help prevent the flu include: regular hand washing, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, disinfecting commonly used items in your home such as telephones, remote controls, doorknobs and drawer or refrigerator handles, getting plenty of sleep, and staying home when sick.
In the U.S., flu activity usually peaks between December and February, but it can occur as early as October and as late as May. Although getting vaccinated early is preferred, getting a vaccination at any point – even mid-season – is still worthwhile in helping to prevent seasonal influenza. Perhaps one of the best ways to help ensure the only things passing around this holiday season are good memories is to get a flu vaccine.
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