Wintertime is here, and healthwise that means flu season is here. State health officials are urging Hoosiers to be prepared and take preventative steps as influenza — the flu — can be dangerous.
“Getting the flu vaccine is the best way to avoid the flu,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Gregory Larkin. The vaccine also comes in a nasal spray for people who do not like shots. Individuals should also practice frequent, thorough hand washing and avoid touching their eyes, nose or mouth without washing their hands first.”
The flu is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. It is spread by respiratory droplets from close contact with infected persons or contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Infection can occur when influenza viruses contact the eyes, mouth or nose and possibly through inhaling droplets from a sneeze or cough.
Currently, Indiana is having normal flu activity, but the Indiana State Department of Health is expecting to see an increase in flu cases as the season continues.
Symptoms of the flu include:
• fever 100 degrees Fahrenheit, or greater
• muscle aches
• sore throat
Although anyone can get the flu, some people are at higher risk of developing complications related to the flu, including hospitalization and death. High-risk individuals include pregnant women, young children (especially those too young to get vaccinated), people with chronic illnesses and/or compromised immune systems and the elderly.
“It’s not too late to get vaccinated,” Larkin said. “The best time is now, but Hoosiers can still get vaccinated through the winter months.”
The Indiana State Department of Health suggests following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that everyone over the age of six months get the vaccine this year — not just those who are at the highest risk.
To help stop the spread of the flu and other respiratory diseases like pertussis (whooping cough), state health officials encourage using the three “C’s.”
• Clean: Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water.
• Cover: Cover your cough or sneeze with your arm or a disposable tissue.
• Contain: Stay home from school/work when you are sick to keep your germs from spreading.
Additionally, another ailment often associated with the flu, “stomach flu” or viral gastroenteritis, is not actually flu at all. It is a viral infection of the intestinal tract. It is spread through eating or drinking contaminated food or drink or by close contact with an infected person.
Unfortunately, flu shots won’t prevent viral gastroenteritis, but prevention does include frequent hand washing, disinfecting contaminated surfaces and prompt washing of soiled clothing.
Also, avoid preparing food if ill with gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea or vomiting.
For more information on influenza and the seasonal flu vaccine, visit www.in.gov/isdh/25462.htm.