Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recorded almost 43 million cases of Influenza (flu) from October through May. Of those, between 17 and 20 million people had medical visits related to the illness. More than 500,000 ended up hospitalized, of which 10% resulted in death.
Many of us don’t think about how dangerous the flu can be. Rather than trying to prevent it, we cross our fingers that we’re lucky enough to avoid it each winter season. Yet simple prevention is available: washing your hands thoroughly, avoiding touching your face, and getting the annual flu shot. In fact, October is the perfect time to get the flu shot, and it’s important not to wait until later in the season.
The flu shot takes TWO weeks before it fully kicks in. Your body has to process the vaccine and in turn it develops protection against the flu. Even if you got the flu shot today, you could still get the flu tomorrow. Waiting until deep into flu season just increases your chances that you could contract the flu before you have developed antibodies.
October is also the perfect month for the flu shot because of how long it lasts. The flu vaccine typically is effective for six months. Get it too early, and it could wear off before flu season ends. By getting the flu shot in October, the vaccine will be good until at least April, when the influenza is phasing out for the season.
It is very easy to contract the flu, and so it is recommended that everyone six months and older receive the influenza vaccine. The flu virus is spread from person to person when someone infected with the virus sneezes, talks or coughs and droplets land in the mouth or nose of the people who are standing close by. It also spreads from your hands to your mouth or nose after touching hard surfaces or objects that an infected person has touched or shaking hands.
Symptoms from exposure to the flu typically start within two days, though it does range from one to four days. Signs and symptoms of influenza are fever, cough, sore throat, muscle or body aches, fatigue and headaches. If you do contract the flu, the best way to fight it is to remain well hydrated, get plenty of rest, and wash your hands thoroughly.
Flu shots provided by the Family Health Clinic are done on a scheduled basis. Contact the office in advance to schedule your flu shot. Perry’s Prompt Care, Henry Clinic, and Walnut Clinic offer flu shots on a walk-in basis.