Posted on November 8, 2017 at 2:17 PM by Doug Bolnick
IT TAKES YOU TO PREVENT THE FLU
With the return of cold winds and cloudy skies, our thoughts shift toward indoor activities with family and friends. One by-product from this closeness is the renewed threat for the spread of the influenza virus.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that is spread through everyday interaction. Close contact with a sick individual is the most common way to pass along the illness, and the virus can spread through coughs and sneezes to those up to six feet away. Another common path for the spread is when someone touches a contaminated surface and then touches his or her nose or mouth. What’s most concerning is that an individual can infect others beginning one day before symptoms arise and up to seven days after becoming sick.
How Would I Know if I Have the Flu?
Since it’s so common and easily spread, anyone can get the flu. Last season, St. Charles County recorded its busiest flu season in recent memory, with more than 4,000 diagnosed cases reported to the Department of Public Health between October 2016 and May 2017.
The flu typically lasts for several days. Symptoms include:
- Fever (Please note that not all flu sufferers will experience a fever.)
- Stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- General fatigue
These symptoms are similar to those suffering from the “common cold,” and the only way to confirm the difference between the two is through a test conducted by a medical professional in the early stages of the illness.
How Can I Prevent the Spread of the Flu?
Proven to reduce the risk for serious flu complications by more than 50 percent, vaccination has a long track record of safety. To improve effectiveness scientists analyze and match circulating influenza viruses to formulate the composition of the vaccine. It takes approximately two weeks for protective antibodies to develop, so a shot received before the peak season of November through March is advised.
There are several types of flu vaccinations available for children and adults through the Department of Public Health’s Immunization Clinic. Vaccinations are provided on an appointment-only basis of Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. For information, or to schedule an appointment, please call 636-949-1857.
While the best way to prevent the flu is vaccination, there are other actions that help to minimize the spread of influenza.
- Regularly wash hands with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds or use hand-sanitizer.
- Cover sneezes or coughs and throw away soiled tissues to minimize the sharing of germs.
- Stay home and avoid contact with others until 24 hours after a fever subsides.
- Take antiviral medication if prescribed by a medical provider.
Where Can I Learn More About the Flu This Year?
Along with individuals taking steps to prevent the spread, medical providers report the incidence of positive cases each week to the health department to help track the illness in our community. The Division of Health Services compiles this information and issues a weekly report on the number of diagnosed cases. In addition to St. Charles County information, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) compiles and shares this information for each state around the nation.
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