Every year the weather gets cooler, people enjoy holiday festivities and as always, people get the flu. While there is no way to predict exactly what the 2015-2016 flu season will look like, there are ways to help prevent getting sick.
According to Unity Health Infection Prevention and Control RN, Mary Lou Adams, the virus can be transmitted by breathing in the droplets in the air that are expelled by a person with the flu when they cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can usually travel a distance of up to 6 feet. The flu can also be spread by touching objects that flu-contaminated particles (from coughing or sneezing) have landed on and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth. The flu can also be transmitted by eating or drinking after someone with the flu. However, while the flu is contagious, it does not have to be inevitable.
"The best prevention is getting the flu shot," Adams said. "It is also important for people to remember to wash their hands regularly with soap and warm water and avoid touching their eyes, nose and mouth. It is also important to avoid being with people who might be contagious with the flu."
Although some people question the effectiveness of the flu shot, the CDC says the effectiveness of the flu shot is based on the "characteristics of the person being vaccinated (such as their age and health) and the similarity or 'match' between the flu viruses the flu vaccine is designed to protect against and the flu viruses spreading in the community."
"Scientists try to predict what strains (types) of flu viruses which are most likely to spread and cause illness each year so they know which strains to put in the vaccine," Adams said. "In years when the vaccine strains and the virus strains are well-matched, the vaccine can reduce the chances of getting the flu by 70-90 percent in healthy adults. The vaccine may be somewhat less effective in elderly persons and very young children, but vaccination can still prevent serious complications from the flu."
If one does get sick, it is important to know the difference between a cold and the flu. Flu symptoms are usually more severe and of a more rapid onset than with a cold. Running a fever is more prevalent with the flu and the flu-like cough is more likely to be a dry hacking cough. A cough due to a cold is usually more productive and may be associated with a runny nose as well. Sneezing is commonly present with a cold and not as common with the flu and people with the flu often report having a headache as well as severe body aches and extreme tiredness.
If one thinks they have the flu, they should contact their primary care doctor since anti-viral drugs can lessen the symptoms and duration of the flu if administered within the first 48 hours of the onset of symptoms. People ages 65 and older or children five years and younger are more at risk for complications than others. People with weakened immune systems, chronic respiratory or cardiac problems, pregnant women and those who are considered obese are also at greater risk for serious complications from the flu.
ABOUT UNITY HEALTH – WHITE COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER:
As the leading healthcare provider in an eight-county area, Unity Health and its associates strive to improve the quality of health and well-being for the communities it serves through compassionate care. Unity Health is the largest employer in an eight-county area with more than 2,000 associates. The facility has a combined total of 438 licensed beds and a medical staff of 150 physicians that specialize in various areas of healthcare.
In addition to the White County Medical Center and Specialty Care Campuses, Unity Health in Searcy includes Unity Health – Clarity Health and Wellness, Unity Health – Family Practice Associates, Unity Health – Urgent Care, Unity Health – McAfee Medical Clinic, Unity Health - Orthopaedic and Spine Center, Unity Health – Searcy Medical Center and Unity Health – Searcy Medical Center, West, Unity Health – Westside Family Medical Clinic, Unity Health Cardiology Clinic and Unity Health Oncology Clinic.