Avoiding the flu

Jodi Rodriguez is immunized against the flu by Maxim Health Systems nurse Jan Radtke at Westlake Center for Community Services on Sept. 30.

As we delight in the changing colors of leaves, mum plants of purple, yellow and orange, and Halloween candy, costumes and decorations, it is easy to forget that October means the beginning of flu season.

Each year more than 200,000 people are hospitalized for flu-related complications. Flu can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It is not to be confused with stomach or intestinal distress.

Flu is unpredictable and how severe it will be can vary from one season to the next, but the Centers for Disease Control/CDC suggest a yearly flu vaccination, ideally in October. It takes about two weeks after vaccinations for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against an influenza virus infection, so the earlier a person is vaccinated the better they may withstand the flu.

If you get the flu vaccine, you are 60 percent less likely to need treatment for the flu. Early immunization is the most effective way to prevent the flu. People 65 and older should not wait for flu season to start because the body’s immune system and its ability to fight illness decreases with age, meaning older adults are more vulnerable to the flu and its related complications. Every year in the United States, roughly nine out of 10 flu-related deaths and more than six out of 10 flu-related hospitalizations occur in people 65 and older. It is also important that those who spend time with older adults get vaccinated.

People who have the flu often feel some or all of these signs and symptoms: fever or feeling feverish/chills, coughs, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches, and fatigue. Complications from the flu include bacterial pneumonia, ear or sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic conditions. You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before knowing you are sick, as well as when you are sick. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five-seven days after becoming sick. Illness from seasonal flu lasts one to two weeks.

Talk to your healthcare provider about your vaccine options this flu season. Immunizations are available from physicians, clinics, pharmacies and community centers. Nurses from Maxim Health Systems will provide flu and pneumonia vaccines at Bay's Dwyer Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Appointments required; call 440-899-3409. And remember, you cannot get the flu from the flu shot.

Joyce Able Schroth

Director, Community Services Department, City of Westlake

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Volume 5, Issue 20, Posted 9:31 AM, 10.01.2013