Influenza, commonly called “the flu,” is a serious disease caused by the influenza virus that affects the respiratory tract. It is highly contagious and generally spreads from person-to-person when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The virus can be transmitted even before flu-like symptoms appear. A person usually becomes sick one to three days following exposure to the virus. Typical flu symptoms include fever, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle aches and extreme fatigue.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the timing and duration of flu seasons vary, from early fall to late spring. Receiving an annual seasonal flu vaccine is the best way to reduce your risk of becoming sick with the flu and spreading the virus to others. It takes up to two weeks to develop the vaccine’s full protection. It is no longer recommended to take the vaccine as soon as it is available, but now recommended to get vaccinated by the end of October. This recommendation is due to evidence that immunity to some strains of the flu virus in the vaccine decline more rapidly than thought in the past. If you have already taken the vaccine this year, there is no need to take another one in the same year.
All persons aged 6 months or older who do not have contraindications should be vaccinated against influenza each year. Particular effort should be made to vaccinate people at higher risk for influenza complications, including:
- Pregnant and postpartum women, or those who will be pregnant during the influenza season;
- All children aged 6 through 59 months;
- Children aged 6 months through 18 years who are receiving aspirin- or salicylate-containing medications and who might be at risk for experiencing Reye’s syndrome after influenza virus infection;
· Adults and children who have chronic lung disorders (including asthma), heart disorders (not including high blood pressure), kidney, liver, neurologic, hematologic or other metabolic disorders, including diabetes;
· Persons who are immunocompromised due to any cause;
· Residents of nursing homes or other long-term care facilities;
· Health care personnel;
· American Indians/Alaska Natives;
· Persons who are extremely obese (body mass index 40 or higher for adults); and
· Household contacts and caregivers of those in other high risk groups.
For more information, or to schedule an offsite flu vaccination clinic, call the LENOWISCO Health District at 276-328-8000.