The autumn season has finally taken up residence, bringing some relief from the summer heat, along with its beautiful colors and seasonal traditions.
Unfortunately, autumn also means that flu season is arriving – a period which usually peaks between December and February but can last as late as May.
The influenza virus can cause mild to severe illness and can even lead to death in certain situations. The flu doesn’t play favorites – anyone can catch it – but individuals with a greater risk of developing flu-related complications include children younger than five years old, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, women up to two weeks postpartum, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, American Indians and Alaska Natives, and those with certain medical conditions like asthma, heart disease and blood disorders.
At Clinton Memorial Hospital, our mission is Making Communities Healthier, and one of the most important ways we do that is by ensuring that our fellow community members stay informed on how to be healthy and fight preventable diseases, like the flu.
We want to do everything we can to prevent the spread of this often debilitating illness. Fortunately, there are a few simple things you can do to protect yourself, your family and our community, prevent the disease from spreading, and speed up your recovery, in case you do fall ill.
Firstly – and most importantly – get vaccinated. Flu vaccination is the best protection from the flu virus.
While it is still possible to contract the flu after getting vaccinated, it is much less likely; and should you get sick, studies show that flu vaccinations can make your illness less severe.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone six months and older, with any age-appropriate flu vaccine. If you are considering a nasal spray flu vaccine, it is important to know that this option is approved by the CDC for use in non-pregnant individuals, ages two through 49, and that there is a precaution against this option for those with certain underlying medical conditions.
You should have a talk with your healthcare provider regarding what flu vaccination method works best for you.
You can visit the Public Health Department, a walk-in clinic or pharmacy, or your primary care provider’s office to receive a flu vaccination.
If you don’t have a provider, we can get you connected with one so that you can get your vaccination completed. Visit our website and browse our Find a Provider tab, or call our Provider Referral Line at 937-382-9606.
Flu vaccines can take approximately two weeks to become fully effective, so you should plan to receive your flu vaccine before flu activity begins in your area, if possible. A good rule of thumb is to get vaccinated by the end of October.
In addition to getting vaccinated, there are several other key actions you can take to protect yourself and your family, and help prevent the spread of flu and other infections during flu season and year-round, including:
• Washing your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, or using a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol-based
• Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
• Avoiding sharing food, cups or eating utensils
• Disinfecting your home and belongings, such as door knobs, light switches, children’s toys and play areas
• Staying home from school or work if you are sick to prevent the spread of germs
• Covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue, your sleeve or elbow, and NOT your bare hands
• Calling your local hospital or your primary care provider with any questions
CMH also is taking the appropriate steps at our facility to prevent the flu from spreading by:
• Providing masks to all visitors and patients experiencing flu-like symptoms
• Setting up stations stocked with tissues and alcohol-based sanitizers throughout our facility
• Encouraging all patients, staff and visitors who have not done so already to get their flu vaccination as soon as possible
• Providing educational materials to all visitors about everyday preventive actions
If you or someone you know begins to notice symptoms including coughing, sore throat, fever or upper respiratory symptoms, please see your healthcare provider right away.
Early detection is especially important for young children, elderly populations, pregnant women and people with certain chronic health issues like asthma, diabetes, heart and lung disease and more. When flu is detected early, prescription antiviral drugs can often help treat the illness and shorten the time you are sick by one or two days.
You should also limit contact with others as much as possible immediately after noticing symptoms. And stay home (or keep your child home) for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to seek medical care.
If you have any questions or concerns about this year’s flu season, don’t hesitate to reach out to your primary care provider.
For additional information about the 2019-20 flu season, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2019-2020.htm or contact the Clinton County Health Department at 937-382-7221.
Lesley Wininger is Chief Nursing Officer, Clinton Memorial Hospital.