Winter is here, and that means a host of wonderful traditions – ice skating, hot chocolate, building snowmen, and the Hampden holiday light show. It also means we are in the midst of flu season. This week is National Flu Vaccination Week (December 4 – 10). If you haven’t already received your annual flu vaccine, I encourage you to get one before it’s too late.
According to CDC, it takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. Therefore, CDC recommends early vaccination to ensure that as many people as possible are protected during the current flu season. That is why it is so important for people to get vaccinated early in the season.
It is also important to take preventive measures at this time of year: wash your hands frequently, cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing, and stay home when you’re sick. These steps will keep you from spreading or catching the flu this year.
Typical flu symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache and muscle aches, and extreme fatigue. While most people recover quickly and fully from the flu, others are at risk for more serious complications.This includes children under five, adults over 65, pregnant women, and those with certain health problems. Residents in these high risk categories are encouraged to contact their physician as soon as they experience any flu symptoms, especially fever and cough, to find out if they may benefit from anti-viral medications. If taken early in the course of the flu, these medications can help decrease the length of illness. Also, persons over 65 years of age should check with their healthcare provider to make sure they are vaccinated for pneumococcal disease.
If you haven’t gotten your flu shot yet, I encourage you to visit one of the Health Department’s TIKE clinics. Shots are free and there is no appointment necessary. Other tips on avoiding flu are available on the DHMH website at www.dhmh.maryland.gov, and from the CDC website's flu information web pages at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/.