Now is the time of year when influenza or “the flu” strikes.
The Pennsyvania Departments of Health and Aging are encouraging people to get flu shots and the week of Dec. 4 through 10 has been designated National Influenza Vacination Week when free flu vaccines are being offered across Pennsylvania to those who qualify.
The special week was established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to emphasize the importance of continuing influenza vaccination throughout the holiday season and into January.
According to the state Department of Health, historically, the number of people seeking flu shots begins to taper off after November.
“Vaccines are among the most successful and cost-effective tools available for preventing disease,” state Secretary of Health Dr. Eli Avila said in a news release. “By increasing vaccination rates, we can fight the spread of influenza and help Pennsylvanians stay
healthy during the holidays and into the New Year.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Health encourages all residents to visit their family doctor to discuss flu shot options. Information is also available on the department’s website at www.health.state.pa.us or by calling 1-877 PA HEALTH.
On average, five to 20 percent of the U.S. population develops influenza each year. Those at risk include the elderly, young children, pregnant women, anyone with chronic medical conditions and health care workers.
According to state Secretary of Aging Brian Duke 50 Pennsylvanians over the age of 65 died from flu complications last year.
The state Department of Health also reports last flu season, there were 115 flu-related deaths reported nationwide in people younger than 18 years of age.
Flu symptoms include:
- Tiredness (can be extreme)
- Dry cough
- Sore throat
- Nasal congestion
- Body aches
- These symptoms are usually referred to as “flu-like symptoms.”
The Pennsylvania Department of Health issued the following guidelines to prevent the spread of influenza:
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water before and following food preparation, before eating and after using restrooms or changing diapers.
- Be careful what you touch. Hands transmit germs.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. If you don’t have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
- Clean your hands after coughing or sneezing by washing with soap and water or cleaning with an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
- Get plenty of rest, eat properly, and dress appropriately for the weather.
- When ill, prevent the spread of germs by staying home from school or the workplace, if possible. Return to work only after being fever free for 24 hours, without the use of fever reducers.
- During flu season, minimize time in crowded areas, such as shopping centers, and avoid contact with those at high risk for the flu, such as the elderly and those with chronic illness.
- If over the age of 65, pregnant, or if you have a chronic illness or disease, talk with your doctor about a flu and pneumonia vaccination.