2017-11-15 / Front Page

Health officials push public to get flu shot ahead of viral season

by Kate Evans

With flu season on the horizon, area residents are reminded to get their annual seasonal flu vaccine soon if they haven’t already done so.

As of the week ending November 4, there was sporadic influenza activity in West Virginia, Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention. There was also minimal influenza-like illness activity reported in all four states, with slightly higher levels found in Pennsylvania.

The CDC recommends that everyone age six months old and up receive a seasonal influenza vaccine every year by the end of October if possible. Flu vaccines provide protection from influenza and prevent flu-related complications, missed work and school and many flu-related hospitalizations and deaths each year.

Flu season can begin as early as October and can last as late as May. Typically flu season peaks between December and March each year. It takes around two weeks for the body to develop antibodies against the flu from the vaccine and to provide protection from influenza infection. Getting the vaccine later in the season can still be beneficial.

Pneumonia vaccines are also recommended for children and adults of all ages. Children and people 65 years of age and older are the most susceptible to pneumonia.

Flu and pneumonia vaccines are available through county health departments, family physicians and pharmacies.

Flu symptoms, complications

Influenza symptoms usually are fever, cough or sore throat and can also include headache, fatigue, runny or stuffy nose, chills or body aches. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea can also occur, especially in children.

Influenza can cause serious complications such as pneumonia, bronchitis and sinus and ear infections. Complications can require hospitalization and become life-threatening or fatal. Influenza can also worsen chronic medical conditions such as asthma or congestive heart disease.

High-risk

Individuals at high risk of developing flu complications include children under age five, especially those under age two, adults over 50 years old, especially those 65 years of age and older, pregnant women and nursing home and long-term care facility residents.

Others at high risk include those with medical conditions such as asthma, chronic lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, kidney or liver disorders and those with weakened or suppressed immune systems.

Seasonal influenza vaccination is also very important for those at high risk of flurelated complications, for caretakers and family members of those individuals and also health care personnel.

Tips to prevent illness

In addition to getting vaccinations, public health officials urge people to wash hands with soap and water often to prevent flu and other illness. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water isn’t available.

Stay home when sick, cover coughs and sneezes with disposable tissues or one’s sleeve and avoid touching one’s eyes, nose and mouth to prevent spreading germs.

Clean and disinfect commonly used objects and surfaces and limit one’s contact with others while sick.

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