Ann Busche: ’Tis the season to be healthy — follow these tips to keep it that wayThis year’s flu vaccine: It’s plentiful, available now and robust.
By: Ann Busche, Budgeteer News
It’s that time of year again, and you are in for a bountiful harvest. No, I’m not talking about Thanksgiving and the possibility of overindulging on turkey, gravy and that great green gelatin salad — you know, the one with pineapple and grated carrots in it.
I’m referring to this year’s flu vaccine: It’s plentiful, available now and robust. It protects against influenza A H3N2 virus, an influenza B virus and the H1N1 virus that caused so much illness last season.
In other words, no need for a seasonal flu shot and a H1N1 flu shot this year — that’s about as exciting as second helpings of your favorite cranberry salad or getting the best napping spot after dinner!
There are two great websites absolutely stuffed with information on the flu.
The first is www.flu.gov and the second is the Centers for Disease Control’s website at www.cdc.gov/flu/freeresources. According to the CDC, there are three steps we should all take this flu season:
Step 1: Get vaccinated
The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that research suggests will be most common. Everyone 6 months of age and older should get vaccinated against the flu as soon as the 2010-2011 season vaccine is available. People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions (like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease) and people 65 and older. Vaccination of high-risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. Vaccination is also important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high-risk people to keep from spreading flu to high-risk people. Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them should be vaccinated instead.
Step 2: Stop the spread of germs
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as germs spread this way. Try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you are sick with a flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone — except to get medical care or for other necessities, of course. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.) While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them
Step 3: Have the flu? Talk to your doctor
If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can treat your illness. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics and must be prescribed by your doctor. Antiviral drugs can make illnesses milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications. It’s important that they be used within the first two days of symptoms to treat people who are very sick (such as those who are hospitalized) or people who are sick with flu symptoms and who are at increased risk of severe flu illness, such as pregnant women, young children, people 65 and older and people with certain chronic health conditions. Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.
Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea.
People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.
Let’s all take these steps to make this flu season as healthy as possible.
Ann Busche is the director of St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 726-2096.