Monday, October 12, 2015

Prevention urged as flu season begins in the Ozarks

LaDonna Alexander receives her annual flu shot from Employee Health Nurse Patriece Ladon

Pumpkin spice lattes, football, fall foliage and cool, crisp mornings are often the first things that come to mind when people think of autumn. Cox Medical Center Branson Nurse Care Manager Carol Myers, RN, hopes there is one more thing that people think of this time of year  – flu shots. 

“Fall is also the time of year when the flu season begins,” Myers said. “In the Ozarks, the flu season typically runs from Oct. 1 through March 31.”

Seasonal influenza, commonly referred to as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the flu virus. Myers said oftentimes people will confuse the common cold with the flu, however, the flu is a very serious illness.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that on average each year in the U.S., 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu and more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications. Flu symptoms often include fever, body aches, fatigue and cough. 

Compared to the common cold, these symptoms are typically much more intense and will last one to two weeks with the flu.

“While the flu is a serious illness, the good news is, it is easy to protect yourself,” Myers explained. “Immunization is a person’s No. 1 line of defense against the virus.”

The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older receive an annual flu vaccination with rare exception.

“The flu vaccine can prevent the flu or greatly reduce its severity and ultimately reduce flu-related hospitalizations and deaths,” Myers said. “Getting vaccinated is easier now than it ever has been with many local pharmacies offering the vaccine, and all CoxHealth primary care providers have the vaccine available. If a person does receive the vaccination outside of their primary care provider’s office, they should just let their provider’s office know.”

While the flu vaccine is a person’s best line of defense against the seasonal flu, good health habits can also protect you against the flu.

“Those good health habits that protect you from the common cold and other viruses also help prevent the spread of flu,” Myers said.

  • Try to avoid close contact with anyone who is ill
  • Limit contact with others when you are sick
  • If you have been ill with flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and items that may be contaminated with germs

For more information about the flu or to find out the best vaccination for you, talk to your primary care provider.