by JOY HACKSON, Director of DOH-Polk
As we enter the holiday season, the excitement of family gatherings and holiday parties are worth celebrating. One thing to remember while preparing for holiday festivities is to remain healthy and get a flu shot. December 1-7 is National Influenza Vaccination Week and a great time to remind people of the importance of getting a flu vaccine this time of year.
There is nothing joyous about getting sick over the holidays. This is one gift you don’t want to share this season. Getting a flu shot is one of the best ways to reduce a person’s chance of illness this holiday season. National Influenza Vaccination Week serves as a reminder that it’s not too late to vaccinate.
While flu vaccination is recommended before the end of October, many don’t realize it’s not too late to get the vaccine. Flu rates tend to peak in January, so the time to vaccinate is now.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness and some serious outcomes of infection can result in hospitalization or death.
Certain groups of people are at higher risk of influenza-related complications and are strongly encouraged to get a flu shot. These groups are adults 65 years of age and older, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and other long term care facilities, and individuals of all ages with certain chronic conditions such as asthma, heart disease, diabetes, or who are morbidly obese.
The flu shot is recommended for all Floridians 6 months of age and older on a yearly basis. It is safe and effective and remains a person’s best defense against getting the flu. Those who prioritize getting the flu shot early helps decrease their risk of getting the flu.
The flu shot is widely available in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, pharmacies, schools as well as the health department. While it may be tempting not to take the flu seriously, influenza remains a leading cause of vaccine-preventable deaths in the United States.
Here are some steps a person can take to help protect themselves against the flu:
- Get the flu shot.
- Stay home when sick.
- Cough and sneeze into a tissue or elbow.
- Wash hands frequently with soap and water.
- Keep hands away from the face.
If a person is experiencing symptoms of the flu including fever, headache, severe cough, runny nose, body aches, see a primary care provider as soon as possible. Early treatment with antiviral medications is important and can help people recover more quickly and help prevent complications.
Don’t let the flu bring a damper to this enjoyable season. Be proactive and take these simple steps to minimize the chances of getting sick this flu season. For more information about the flu, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at cdc.gov/flu.