Also, health tracking shows that there is a high rate of people being treated for influenza-like symptoms. Not everyone always goes to the doctor when they are sick, and not everyone gets tested when they do, so the flu statistics, as high as they are this season, don’t even reflect the true number of people who are sick with the illness.
If you haven’t gotten a flu vaccine yet, officials at the Monongalia County Health Department are strongly urging that you get one now.
“A flu vaccination is the most effective way to avoid the flu,” said Dr. Lee B. Smith, county health officer and executive director of the Monongalia County Health Department. “This season has a higher-than-normal death rate that is affecting extremes of age, young and old, and also young and healthy.”
The flu vaccine is recommended for just about everybody over the age of 6 months, especially the elderly and people with conditions that compromise their immune systems. Pregnant women also should get a flu shot, not only to protect themselves, but also their babies, who cannot be inoculated right after birth.
People who do have egg allergies should consult with their physicians about whether they can safely get a flu shot.
There are other steps we can all observe to avoid getting the flu. They include to wash your hands often and thoroughly, using soap and warm water. Avoid sick people; avoid touching your nose, eyes and mouth; and clean and disinfect areas that may be contaminated with germs.
Also, as usual, getting plenty of rest is a great way to keep your immune system functioning well.
If, in spite of these measures, you do get the flu, here are some tips to lessen the severity of the symptoms. Because of this year’s harsh flu season, health officials are telling people to consider taking an antiviral medication such as Tamiflu when you first come down with influenza to help ease the symptoms and length of the illness. Antibiotics will not help fight the flu, although sometimes doctors prescribe it if someone has a secondary bronchial infection. It is important not to take antibiotics unless you really need them.
Once again, getting plenty of rest is key, as is remaining hydrated.
Also incredibly important this flu season is for sick people to stay home. Children should not go to school or extra-curricular activities if they have the flu or influenza-like symptoms; adults shouldn’t go to work. In this fast-paced age, skipping work can seem difficult. But it is more productive in the long run to get healthier as soon as possible and to not infect co-workers or other kids with the flu.
Many people get through the flu without visiting the doctor. That’s a judgment call that individuals should make based on their situation and their health. For many people, the flu means plenty of bed rest and liquids. But there are others who will require a trip to the doctor or even hospitalization. Those are the only times someone with the flu should go outside.
It’s late January and no one knows when the flu season will peak. It often doesn’t do so until February or March. So the best bet is to get vaccinated and stay healthy—and to stay home if you do get sick.
If you want to read more about flu prevention and treatment, check out this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. And if you need to make an appointment for a flu vaccine, call Monongalia County Health Department's Clinical Services program at 304-598-5119.