Ahhh…the air is cooling, leaves are falling, beautiful colors in San Benito County–fall is finally here…ahhh choo!
With the change in season we’ve been looking forward to, unfortunately, comes the start of flu season. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the influenza (flu) virus typically begins circulating every year from fall through spring. This means we need to begin protecting ourselves now to avoid getting sick with the flu this season.
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. For millions of people every season, the flu causes fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, fatigue, and miserable days spent at home in bed instead of at work or school. Anyone can get sick from the flu and although most people recover without serious consequences, many do not. Influenza can cause very serious illness especially in high risk groups such as elderly, very young children, pregnant women, and those with chronic medical conditions. You may not realize that each flu season, flu causes hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths.
How does the flu spread?
Flu viruses spread mainly when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Did you know that coughing or sneezing can carry the flu virus at least six feet away, exposing other people to the flu! Also, a person can get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose.
A person with the flu can begin spreading it to others before they know they’re sick. Most people with flu are contagious beginning 1 day before and up to five to seven days after their symptoms develop. After a person has been exposed to the flu, it usually takes one to four days to develop symptoms.
What can we do to protect ourselves, families and those around us from the flu?
1. The CDC says that the very best way to prevent the flu is by getting the flu vaccine and recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine every year. Flu vaccine reduces flu illness, doctors’ visits, missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevents flu-related hospitalizations. In the last several flu seasons, 75% of children who died from the flu were NOT vaccinated.
2. Wash your hands often and for at least 20 seconds each time.
3. If you are sick with flu, stay home from work or school to prevent spread to others.
4. Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth
6. Keep your immune system strong by getting plenty of sleep, staying physically active and eating nutritious foods.
What should we know about the flu vaccine this season?
– CDC recommends getting a flu shot as soon as you can; it is not too early. In some years, the flu season starts early in October. Remember, after you get the flu vaccine, it takes about two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective.
– Only flu shots are recommended this year, not nasal spray. The CDC has recommended against use of the nasal spray for this season due to concerns with it being less effective than the shot.
– Two of the flu strains in this year’s flu vaccine have been updated from last year to better match what is expected to circulate.
– All of the flu vaccines contain the same three strains and a few manufacturers have added a fourth strain. The CDC does not have a preference for one flu vaccine over another.
– It is safe and recommended to get a flu shot if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
– Recommendations for flu vaccine in people with severe egg allergies have changed. Talk with your healthcare provider to check if you can now receive the vaccine.
– The flu vaccine can’t give you the flu. However, some people will experience flu or flu-like symptoms after receiving the flu vaccine…why?
• Keep in mind that the vaccine takes a couple of weeks to become protective, so if you are exposed to the flu before the vaccine is fully effective, you may still get the flu. That’s a good reason for getting the flu vaccine as soon as possible!
• In some years, there can be a different strain of flu virus circulating that is not contained in the vaccine and you may, then, not be protected against that strain. However, most years, the vaccine is a good match and the vaccine remains your best bet at being protected against the flu.
• As with many different vaccines, some people may experience mild fever and/or body aches within the first day or two after a vaccination. This is simply your body’s immune system responding to the vaccine and beginning to make the antibodies that will protect you.
– There should be plenty of flu vaccine this season-no shortages are expected at this time. See your local healthcare provider, clinic or pharmacy to get your flu vaccine. Also, the Health Department will hold its annual Flu Vaccine Clinic on Nov. 1 from 1:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at the Veterans Memorial Building in Hollister.
The San Benito County Public Health Department hopes you stay healthy and don’t Fall for the Flu! For more information about the flu and how to protect yourself and those around you, see the CDC website below. Also, for questions, please call the San Benito County Public Health Department at 831-637-5367.