After all, these are the two best ways to avoid getting the flu.
Even though the holiday season has begun, it’s still not too late to get your flu vaccine yet. If it’s still on your to-do list, you can make an appointment to get one by calling Monongalia County Health Department's Clinical Services at 304-598-5119. It takes about two weeks for full protection to set in, so if you have plans to gather with family later this month, now is the time to act.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that during the 2016-17 flu season, the vaccine prevented an estimated 5.3 million flu illnesses, 2.6 million medical visits and 85,000 flu hospitalizations.
Of course, most people who get the flu will recover in a week or so with fluids and rest. Others, however, will develop serious complications, and some will land in the hospital. During the most recent 2017-18 flu season, the CDC estimates that flu caused 49 million flu illnesses; 960,000 flu hospitalizations and 79,000 deaths.
The flu vaccine is recommended for just about anyone from the age of 6 months and up. Flu can be particularly hard on children, the elderly and those who have conditions such as diabetes, asthma, heart disease and lung disease. Pregnant women are advised to get a flu vaccine not only for themselves, but also to help protect their babies during their first six months.
Even if the flu vaccine isn’t a great match for this season’s virus—the vaccine inoculates against three or four of the strains predicted to be most active—it still provides protection. And if you do get the flu, it can lessen the symptoms and the length of time you are sick.
That leads to the second way to avoid flu—hand washing. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: 20 seconds of thoroughly scrubbing your hands with warm water and soap go a long way toward preventing illness. Wash your hands several times a day, including before and after preparing food or caring for a sick person, after going to the bathroom or changing a diaper and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
The importance of hand-washing became important to me when I first worked in an office that required punching in a code to gain entry. Once after I watched a co-worker sniffling with a bad cold ahead of me, I made sure to wash my hands often.
And speaking of coughing and sneezing, avoid doing it into your hand. That’s what your elbow is for. Or use a tissue.
Hand washing is important not only in the fight against cold and flu viruses, but also Hepatitis A. A Hepatitis A outbreak in southern West Virginia is just starting to wane; efforts have been made to keep avoid a similar situation in North Central West Virginia.
Many people have long to-do lists during the holidays, but adding a flu vaccine and frequent hand-washing will go a long way toward making the season merry and bright.