It’s that time of year again — flu season. As family and friends are gathering for the holidays, flu activity is increasing across the nation. There have been 32 influenza-associated hospitalizations in Ohio as of Nov. 23, and 24 states are already seeing widespread flu activity this year. The best way to prevent influenza is to get the flu vaccine, and it’s never too late! Getting your flu vaccine doesn’t just benefit you, but those around you. Get your vaccine for those you love, those who protect you, those you worship with, those you care for, those you inspire, those who live in your community, and of course, yourself.
Influenza (flu) is more than a cold, or even a “bad cold,” and can result in serious health complications like pneumonia, bacterial infections and hospitalization. Flu can sometimes even lead to death. Because of flu vaccines, millions of illnesses, tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths are prevented every season. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season.
Flu vaccination can reduce your risk of flu illness, doctors’ visits and missed work and school due to flu. Even if you are vaccinated and still get sick, the vaccine can reduce the severity of your illness. Flu vaccination can help protect women during and after pregnancy and protect the baby born to a vaccinated mom for several months after birth. It has also been shown to save children’s lives, prevent serious events associated with chronic lung disease, diabetes and heart disease, and prevent flu-related hospitalization among working age adults and older adults. Getting vaccinated isn’t just about protecting yourself but helping to protect others around you who may be vulnerable to becoming very sick.
You can also help protect yourself and those you care about by taking everyday actions to stop the spread of germs. You should try to avoid close contact with sick people, and if you become sick keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too. Make sure you wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. You should also cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
If you do get sick with flu, most people have mild illness and do not need medical care or antiviral drugs. However, if you have symptoms of flu and are in a high risk group such as those 65 and older, pregnant women and young children, contact your health care provider. You should also contact your doctor if you are very sick or worried about your illness. Treatment with antiviral drugs can make illness milder, shorten the time you are sick and help prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia.
Remember it’s never too late to get a flu vaccine to protect yourself and those around you this flu season! You can make an appointment for your flu vaccine at the health department at 419-599-5545 or find a place near you at www.vaccinefinder.org.