Health Departments have advice for fighting the flu

Posted 3 December 2019 at 3:20 pm

Press Release, Public Health Departments in Orleans and Genesee counties

This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW). As family and friends are gathering for the holidays, flu activity is increasing.

NIVW serves as a reminder it is not too late to get a flu vaccine. Paul Pettit, Public Health Director of Genesee and Orleans Counties wants to remind folks that when you get a flu vaccine, you are also protecting your loved ones and your community.

“Getting vaccinated isn’t just about keeping you healthy,” Pettit said. “It is also about helping to protect others around you who may be at risk of becoming very sick, such as babies, older adults, and pregnant women.”

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. When someone with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks, they spray tiny droplets. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. People can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touch their own mouth, nose, or eyes. Influenza can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Although the majority of hospitalizations and deaths occur in people 65 years and older, healthy young children and adults can have severe disease or even die from the flu.

“To be protected against the flu, you have to get the vaccine every year,” explains Brenden Bedard, director of Community Health Services for Genesee and Orleans counties. “Because flu viruses are constantly changing, flu vaccines may be updated from one season to the next to protect against the viruses that research suggests may be most common during the upcoming flu season. For the best protection, everyone 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated annually.”

In addition to receiving the flu shot, it is also important to practice good health habits. The tips below will help you learn about ways you can protect yourself and others from germs this season.

• Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.

• Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing – or cough/sneeze into your elbow if no tissues are available. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and whooping cough are spread by coughing, sneezing, or unclean hands.

• Wash your hands. Good hand washing takes 20 seconds. Sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice while you wash. Scrub with soap and water to remove germs. Always wash hands before eating, and after coughing, sneezing, spending time outside, touching animals, using the bathroom, or changing a baby’s diaper. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

• Practice other good health habits. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

Flu seasons are unpredictable and can last late into the spring. As long as flu viruses are spreading and causing illness, vaccination should continue throughout the flu season in order to protect as many people as possible. It’s important to remember that it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection.

If you have not received your annual flu vaccine this year, now is the time!

To find a place near you to get a flu vaccine, visit HealthMap Vaccine Finder.

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