Shorter days and cooler temperatures are tell-tale signs that autumn has arrived.
Unfortunately, another sign of the season is the beginning of increased flu activity. Flu season can last from autumn to as late as May, peaking between December and February.
According to a study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, last year’s flu cases were historically low, thanks in large part to widespread practice of safety measures to combat Covid-19.
With less common practice of those measures over the past several months, we could see an uptick in flu cases similar to prior years’ levels. That potential – along with the continuing pandemic – makes it even more important that we each do what we can to minimize our risk, protect our health and protect the health of those around us.
Getting vaccinated against the flu is a vitally important way to fight it.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses and can cause mild to severe illness and even lead to death in certain situations.
Everyone is susceptible to the flu, but individuals with a greater risk of developing complications from these viruses include children younger than five years old, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and those with certain medical conditions like asthma, heart disease and blood disorders.
First – and most importantly – get vaccinated. Flu vaccination is the single best way to protect yourself from influenza viruses.
While it is still possible to contract the flu after getting vaccinated, studies show that vaccinations can make your illness less severe if you do get sick. Getting vaccinated also affords you the peace of mind that comes from knowing that you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself against the flu.
The CDC recommends annual flu vaccinations for everyone 6 months and older. If you are considering a nasal spray flu vaccine, it is important to know that this option is approved by the CDC for use in non-pregnant individuals, ages 2 through 49, and that there is a precaution against this option for those with certain underlying medical conditions.
Talk with your health care provider regarding which flu vaccination method works best for you.
Flu vaccines can take two weeks to become fully effective, so you should plan to receive your flu vaccine before flu activity begins in your area.
You can visit the Benton-Franklin Health District, a walk-in clinic or pharmacy, or your primary care provider’s office to receive one.
In addition to getting vaccinated, there are other simple steps you can take to protect yourself and your family, and help prevent the spread of flu and other infections like Covid-19 during flu season and year-round, including:
If you or someone you know notices symptoms including coughing, sore throat, fever or other upper respiratory symptoms, please see your health care provider right away.
Many of the most common symptoms of flu are consistent with Covid-19, so it may be hard to tell the difference between them. Testing may be needed to help confirm a diagnosis.
Don’t ignore your symptoms. Limit your contact with others as much as possible when symptoms appear, and stay home (or keep your child home) for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to seek medical care.
The good news is that when you act on your symptoms, visit a provider and flu is detected early, prescription antiviral drugs can often help treat the illness and shorten the time you are sick by one or two days.
For additional information about the 2021-22 flu season, go to the CDC website at cdc.gov/flu or contact the Benton-Franklin Health District at 509-460-4200.
Kena Chase and Dena Putnam-Gilchrist are the chief nursing officers for Lourdes Health and Trios Health, respectively.
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