Flu is serious business, take precautions

Published 8:10 am Thursday, January 18, 2018

In case you haven’t noticed there’s a lot of hacking and coughing going on as anyone at work, school or home can attest.
Hospitals in the region don’t like what they are seeing, and in recent days announced stricter visitation measures because of the flu.
This winter’s flu season is turning into a “moderately severe” outbreak that might get worse because of an imperfect vaccine and steady cold weather. The flu is now widespread not only across the state of Tennessee, but across the country.
According to health experts, about 80 percent of cases are of the H3N2 strain, which caused many hospitalizations and deaths this year in Australia, where winter comes in July and August.
Compared to H1N1, the other seasonal Type A strain, and to B strains that usually arrive late in the season, H3N2 tends to kill more of the very young and very old, CDC officials said.
Flu season can be unpredictable, and education is key to staying healthy. Fortunately, for those who haven’t received their flu shot: it’s not too late. Since the vaccination can take up to two weeks to build full immunity, now is an ideal time to protect yourself. You are not only protecting yourself, but you are protecting others when you get a flu shot.
And people who get the flu despite the vaccine generally are less sick than if they didn’t have the flu shot.
Everyone is familiar with symptoms of the flu — fever, headache, nausea and fatigue. Unfortunately, some more powerful strains can wreak further havoc on those with chronic medical conditions, like heart disease, diabetes or asthma.
In addition to taking a flu shot, there are other precautions you can take to prevent infection with the flu, such as avoiding contact with sick people. People who are sick should stay home for at least 24 hours after symptoms have resolved to protect others and prevent spreading the disease. This should include avoiding going to work, school and other public places while ill, and limiting visits to people in nursing homes or hospitals.
To protect your family and others, always use “respiratory etiquette” such as coughing into your elbow or a tissue rather than your hands, and wash hands frequently with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand rub. Routine cleaning and disinfection in the home and workplace are also important to reduce flu risks.
However, a flu shot is still the best protection you can get. The vaccine stimulates the body’s immune system to make antibodies, which can recognize and attack that specific strain of virus inside the body. The vaccine greatly reduces the chances of contracting the virus and, if contracted, may make the symptoms milder. It’s important to note that most flu vaccinations protect against strains that are respiratory in nature, not gastrointestinal. Getting the “stomach bug” doesn’t necessarily mean your vaccine was ineffective.
Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations, the agency advises.
The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from flu, including older people, very young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications. Be smart.
Good health habits are the best way to avoid getting the flu.

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