It’s not too late to get your flu vaccine. An influenza vaccine is recommended very year during flu season (October through May). When scheduling your vaccine, please note that it takes about two weeks for protection to develop after receiving the vaccine. This means that if you become ill during this two-week time frame, you were exposed to other viruses or illnesses. The flu vaccine cannot cause the flu because there is no live virus in the vaccine. The term “stomach flu” is a misnomer because influenza is not a gastrointestinal illness. Acute gastrointestinal symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea could be Norovirus http://www.ndhealth.gov/Disease/Documents/faqs/Norovirus.pdf and unfortunately, there is no vaccine for this illness.
Influenza is a common respiratory disease with symptoms of fever/chills, cough, sore throat, headache, body aches, and fatigue. The flu viruses are spread by droplets up to six feet away when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or even inhaled into the lungs. Another way a person may get the flu is by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touch their own mouth, nose, or eyes.
Experts believe that people are the most contagious with the flu in the first three to four days after their illness begins. However, persons with the flu are also contagious one day before symptoms develop up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may be able to spread the virus even longer. The more one coughs and sneezes, the more droplets are shot into the air and on objects that others can pick up. The time when a person is first exposed to the virus until their symptoms begin, is about two days, but can range from one to four days.
Complications from the flu can lead to pneumonia and blood infections. Flu is more dangerous for some people, such as infants, young children, persons 65 years and older, pregnant women, and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart or lung problems.
There are some ways you can prevent from getting the flu. Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them. Wash your hands for 20 seconds, or as long as it takes to sing or hum the “Happy Birthday” song twice. Scrub your hands well, especially between your fingers. It’s the fiction and soap that removes the germs from your hands. Wipe your hands with a clean paper towel. Turn off the faucet with another paper towel.
If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Apply the product to the palm of one hand. Rub your hands together making sure to rub the product over all surfaces of your hands and fingers until dry.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, stay at least six feet away from others to protect them from getting sick too. Stay home when you are sick. If you have a fever, stay home for at least 24 hours after your temperature goes down on its own without taking any medication. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Immediately wash your hands after coughing or sneezing. If no tissue is available, cough in your sleeve.
Finally, get a flu vaccine if you haven’t already had one. Flu vaccine can keep you from getting the flu, make the flu less severe if you do get it, and keep you from spreading it to others. Call us at 701-642-7735 to schedule your vaccine today!
Carol Lee, RN, Richland County Public Health