By: Sallie James
It’s flu season again and it’s time to be flu safe.
The flu can be especially dangerous for young children, the elderly and people with certain medical conditions. That’s why it’s important to take simple precautions like getting the flu vaccine and washing your hands. It’s never fun to get sick and it’s important to take preventative measures so you stay healthy.
“We encourage everyone to get vaccinated. It’s the best way to protect the community, including older people, children, pregnant women and people with chronic illnesses, all of whom are more vulnerable to complications,” said Dr. Paula Thaqi, Director of DOH-Broward.
So, what is the flu?
Simply put, it’s a respiratory infection that can cause serious complications. Symptoms can be mild to serious, and at times, even lead to death. Influenza, or flu vaccine, is the best way to combat this illness. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend everyone six months and older be vaccinated annually against the flu.
And by the way, the flu vaccine is safe.
The flu shot is an inactive vaccine containing a killed virus. A higher dose is recommended for people over age 65, who are more susceptible to flu complications. The best place to get the flu vaccine is at your private physician, but flu vaccines are widely available at a variety of retail stores.
Be aware that chronic respiratory conditions, diabetes, kidney and liver disease, neurological conditions, cancer, and HIV, can heighten the risk of flu complications.
According to the CDC, people with flu can spread it to others up to about 6 feet away. Most experts think that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Someone can also contract the flu by touching a surface that has the flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth eyes or nose.
Why the flu vaccine is important
The CDC recommends getting a flu vaccine every year because flu viruses evolve quickly, and last year’s vaccine may not protect against the current year’s flu strain.
If you get sick, see your doctor right away. Antiviral drugs are used to treat the flu and should be administered as soon as possible because they work best if started within 48 hours of symptoms appearing. Using antiviral drugs can make flu symptoms milder and speed up recovery. Such medications may also prevent serious complications.
The Department of Health in Broward County urges everyone to take these five steps to fight the flu:
- Get vaccinated. Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself and your family.
- Cover your cough or sneeze. Use your sleeve or a tissue when you cough or sneeze and then toss your used tissue in the wastebasket and wash your hands to keep from spreading germs.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- Avoid touching your eyes nose and mouth. If you touch a surface with the flu virus, you can get the flu by touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Stay home if you are sick. Viruses go wherever you go when you are infected so stay home and check with your healthcare provider if needed.
For more information, visit FluFreeFlorida.com for more information on how to be a part of #FluFreeFL. For more information on influenza and influenza-like illness in Florida, please visit floridahealth.gov/diseases-and-conditions/influenza.
Sallie James is with the Florida Department of Health in Broward and a contributor to Tamarac Talk.