Flu Season Expected To Continue Through April

While persons admitted to the hospital for the flu is less than last flu season’s numbers, the cases of flu admitted has risen steadily over the past month for Ohio, including Greene and surrounding counties. Over the past few days those going to the hospital has decreased, but persons are still getting sick from the flu. Greene County Public Health would like to remind those who are unvaccinated that getting the flu vaccine helps protect those that cannot get the vaccine and those that are unable to make antibodies to the flu (like persons who are having cancer treatments and others). This current flu season in Greene County is anticipated to continue through April, but the vaccine is proving to be a good match for the circulating flu viruses this year.

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Flu is different from a cold. Flu usually comes on suddenly. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent flu is by getting a flu vaccine each year. People who have flu often feel some or all of the following symptoms:

•Fever (not everyone with flu will have a fever)
•cough
•sore throat
•runny or stuffy nose
•body aches
•headache
•chills
•fatigue
•sometimes diarrhea and vomiting

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. You may be able to pass on flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick. People with flu are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after their illness begins.

Some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. The time from when a person is exposed and infected with flu to when symptoms begin is about two days but can range from about one to four days. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time. Anyone can get flu (even healthy people), and serious problems related to flu can happen at any age, but some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications if they get sick. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and children younger than five years. The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. Flu vaccine has been shown to reduce flu related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications that can result in hospitalization or even death. Greene County Public Health recommends everyday preventive actions (like staying away from people who are sick, covering coughs and sneezes and frequent handwashing) to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu. It is very difficult to distinguish flu from other viral or bacterial respiratory illnesses based on symptoms alone. There are tests available to diagnose flu.

People at high risk of complications from the flu include children younger than 5 and especially those under 2 years of age, adults 65 years and older, pregnant women and women up to 2 weeks after delivery, and residents of nursing homes. People with certain medical conditions are also at high risk of complications. These include asthma, heart disease, and others. Those at high risk should follow the advice of their health care provider about how to prevent complications.

The best way to prevent the flu is to take time to get vaccinated. You can also take everyday precautions to stop the spread of germs. If you are sick with the flu, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities (the fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of fever reducing medicine like Tylenol or Advil). Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands. Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like flu. The flu vaccine is covered by most insurance plans.

For more information, please contact Greene County Public Health at 937-374-5600 or visit http://www.gcph.info/public-health-programs/communicable_disease/flu_information.

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