It’s time to prepare and prevent
Published 1:20 pm Friday, September 23, 2016
Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death.
Children younger than age 5, adults aged 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions are at high risk for serious flu complications. Complications from the flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year. The current Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendation is for everyone age 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine annually.
Yearly flu vaccination should begin soon after flu vaccine is available and ideally occur in October. Though seasonal influenza outbreaks can happen as early as October, most of the time flu activity peaks in January or later. It takes 2-4 weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against influenza infection to develop in the body, so it is best for people to get vaccinated before flu begins spreading in their community. While best practice is to get the flu vaccine early, getting vaccinated later can be protective, as long as flu viruses are circulating.
The CDC and Beaufort County Health Department urges the public to take the following actions to protect themselves and others from the flu:
- avoid close contact with sick people, and if you are sick with flu-like symptoms, avoid close contact with other people as much as possible (stay home for 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or other necessities), cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, wash your hands often with soap and water, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs
- take antiviral medications if your doctor prescribes them
- get your flu vaccine and encourage others, such as family and friends to get theirs too
Beginning Oct. 3, the Beaufort County Health Department will be giving seasonal flu shots Mondays – Fridays, 8:30 a.m. to noon and 1–4:30 p.m. at the health department, 1436 Highland Drive, Washington. The vaccine will be given on a walk-in basis. No appointment is necessary. Client registration forms will be available on our website www.bchd.net. Though not required, we encourage you to complete the form and bring it with you when coming for your flu shot. For any questions, please contact Beaufort County Health Department at 252-946-1902.
The health department will file reimbursement claims for those covered by Medicare Part B, Railroad Medicare, Blue Cross Blue Shield, N.C. Medicaid, N.C. Health Choice and Medcost. Please bring your insurance card with you. For all others, payment is expected at the time of service.
Carol Kinnion, RN, is the director of nursing with the Beaufort County Health Department.