By Ron Anglo, Chief Clinical Officer, Chelsea Jewish Lifecare
Fall is finally here and before we know it, snow will be on the ground. Unfortunately, as the temperature naturally falls, we will start seeing more and more people get sick with the flu. Flu affects people of all ages, which is why it is important for everyone to be educated about flu prevention.
What is Influenza (Flu)?
Influenza, commonly known as the flu, is a contagious infectious respiratory disease caused by an influenza virus. It infects the nose, throat, and lungs and can lead to serious complications, hospitalization, or even death (CDC, 2015). Common symptoms include: sore throat, body ache, coughing, high fever, runny nose, and overall feeling of tiredness. Serious complications like pneumonia and bronchitis can result from this. It is important to see your primary care physician at the first onset of symptoms.
Mode of transmission
Influenza is very contagious and easily spread from one person to another. When a person with the flu coughs or sneezes, infected droplets are spread through the air and contaminate surfaces they land on. Touching contaminated surfaces and then touching your eyes, mouth, or nose is usually how an individual is infected with the virus.
Prevention through Vaccination
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting against influenza. People should begin getting vaccinated soon after the flu vaccine becomes available, if possible by October, to ensure that as many people as possible are protected before flu season begins. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, it’s not too late to get vaccinated! It takes about two weeks after vaccination for protection to set in.
What is a Flu Vaccine?
The flu vaccine is safe. People have been receiving flu vaccines for more than 50 years. Vaccine safety is closely monitored by the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). A common misconception is that a flu vaccine can give you the flu. This is false. The most common side effects from a flu shot are soreness and/or redness where the shot was given, maybe a low fever or body aches. The nasal spray flu vaccine might cause congestion, runny nose, sore throat, or cough. These side effects are NOT the flu. If you do experience them at all, these side effects are usually mild and short-lived.
Important Things to Remember
- Wash your hands frequently. Hand washing is the single most effective way to prevent the spread of infection. Your hands maybe contaminated by touching door knobs or pressing elevator buttons. When your hand is contaminated, the person who’s likely going to be infected is you because you are closer to your hands than anyone.
- When you’re not feeling well and have symptoms of the flu, consult your primary care physician immediately. There’s a medicine that can help with symptoms, if taken immediately.
- Stay home and refrain from visiting your relatives in the nursing home, rehab or assisted living.
- Get vaccinated with the influenza vaccine!