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Flu vaccine and handwashing observances remind us to stay healthy

Flu vaccine and handwashing observances remind us to stay healthy

Dec. 1, 2021

By Jhanvee Patel

With the chilly breeze and below freezing temperatures, I have already taken out my gloves this year. Winter is around the corner, but it feels like it has already arrived! The sun sets early, and snow is already starting to fall.

With the cold weather, it is important to take increased caution with your health. The first week of December has two relevant observances: National Handwashing Awareness Week, which starts today and runs through Dec. 7, and National Influenza Vaccination Week, which starts on Sunday and goes until Dec. 11.

After more than a year and a half of constantly being reminded to wash your hands due to COVID-19, it is important not to become complacent and to remember that washing your hands prevents you from contracting flu and other viruses too. Common colds and the flu travel swiftly through populations, and the best way to prevent getting a sickness is by washing your hands, along with other preventative measures such as wearing a mask and social distancing.

Washing your hands is not just a quick rinse of water. When washing your hands, you should do so for at least 20 seconds. It is vital to scrub beneath fingernails and between fingers. It is also crucial to consider soap quality in your home. Antibacterial soaps can help bacterial DNA evolve to become antibiotic resistance. Pick a favorite song and sing the chorus while you scrub!

If you don’t feel a need to wash your hands for yourself, keep in mind washing your hands keeps the people around you safe. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, washing your hands can decrease your chances of getting a respiratory infection by 16%.

The highlight of National Influenza Vaccination Week is, of course, to emphasize the importance of the flu vaccine. We have spent most of our time recently on the fear of getting COVID, and it is easy to forget how other viruses also affect your life. Getting your COVID vaccine is pertinent, but so is getting your flu vaccine.

Some individuals believe that they don’t need the flu vaccine or that getting influenza isn’t a big deal. If you have had the flu before, you know the virus is no joke. Flu symptoms can last for a month and can have severe consequences, especially in the elderly, and can even result in hospitalization or death.

And even though MCHD Clinical Services emphasized getting flu vaccines in October, if you haven’t yet, now is a great time, especially if you plan to gather with friends and family for the holidays. Once you get the flu vaccine, it takes two weeks to become fully effective.

If you have questions about the flu vaccine or are hesitant, talk to your health-care provider. Here are some questions and answers from the CDC.

A flu vaccine is recommended for everyone over the age of 6 months and is especially important for the elderly, individuals with compromised immune systems or diseases such as diabetes, and pregnant women, to help both them and their child up to the age of 6 months when the inoculation is recommended.

We are just starting to see the light coming out of a pandemic. With the holiday season and the end of the year coming up, we don’t want to be 6 feet apart anymore. Do yourself a favor as winter approaches. Wash your hands and get your flu shot. And, if you haven’t gotten your COVID vaccine, or need a second dose or a booster, that will help you stay healthy too.

Keep your body safe and keep your loved ones safe.

To make an appointment for a flu vaccine, call MCHD Clinical Services at 304-598-5119. To make an appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine, click here.

Jhanvee Patel is a public information office intern at Monongalia County Health Department.

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