Friday, February 21, 2014

What to know and do about flu

Today’s guest blog is by Michael Jhung, MD, MPH, MS, a medical officer for the Surveillance and Outbreak Response Team in the Influenza Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Feb. 20, CDC announced that the current flu season has been hard on young and middle-aged adults, with people ages 18-64 accounting for 61 percent of flu hospitalizations. CDC noted that the season is still ongoing and it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

Winter is in full swing and flu activity is elevated nationwide. Getting a flu vaccination now may still help protect you from becoming sick this winter and spring. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that flu vaccination continue into February and beyond, as long as flu viruses are circulating.

Should you get the flu vaccine if you’ve already been sick with the flu this season? Yes. Even if you’ve had the flu, it is possible to get it again. Many different types of flu viruses circulate each winter and spring, and getting vaccinated now may protect you from one of the other flu viruses to which you may be exposed.

Even healthy people can benefit from a flu vaccine. Getting vaccinated protects you and those around you, especially people who are at high risk for flu complications, such as people with chronic disease, seniors, pregnant women and young children. Babies under 6 months are too young to get vaccinated, so the best way to protect them is for everyone around them to get vaccinated.

In addition to getting vaccinated, you can take everyday preventive actions to help reduce the spread of germs. Try to avoid contact with people who are sick. If you or your child gets sick, stay home from work or school. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer to keep from spreading flu to others.

Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly and include some or all of these: fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. It’s also important to remember that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

If you get the flu, prescription antiviral drugs are a treatment option. Many people can benefit from taking antiviral drugs like Tamiflu that can shorten the time you are sick and lessen the severity of symptoms. Antiviral medicines work best when started soon after symptoms develop, so people — especially high risk groups — should seek medical care ASAP.

Flu can be a very serious disease. Do your part to protect against the flu and encourage others to do the same.

Find a flu vaccine provider at Join @CDCFlu and APHA’s @GetReady on social media to share the news of your vaccination by posting a message using #vaxwithme. In doing so, you will help remind and encourage others to get vaccinated.

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