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Get your shots

There were 13 more flu-associated deaths in North Carolina from Feb. 10 to Feb. 16, pushing the total flu-related deaths in our state this flu season up to 68. While we’re not on track to reach the 391 flu-associated deaths reported during the 2017-18 flu season — the most reported during a flu season since adult deaths became reportable in North Carolina in 2009 — it’s still a cause for concern.

That’s because there is a rather simple way to help protect yourself against the flu virus every year: get the flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting yourself against flu viruses. Even if you received a flu shot last year, it’s important to get it every year. That’s due to the fact vaccines are updated to protect against the various different flu strains research suggests will be the most common every year.

The CDC recommends everyone six months of age or older should get a vaccine, with the vaccination of people with high risk especially important to lower their risk of severe flu illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older. Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. So, people who care for them should be vaccinated instead.

But even if you get your flu shot, there are still things you can do every day to help prevent the spread of the flu, according to the CDC. It starts with good hygiene etiquette.

  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

If you do end up catching the flu, your doctor can prescribe you antiviral drugs to help treat the illness. According to the CDC, antiviral drugs can make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They can also prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia. It’s very important that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with the flu and have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a high risk medical condition.

Catching the flu can cause a mild illness, leaving you bedridden for a few days. But it can also be severe, leading to hospitalization, or even death. But as long as we all do our part to help prevent the spread of the flu by getting the vaccine and taking the everyday preventative actions to limit the spreading of germs, we can lessen the impact the flu has.