Take Steps to Prevent the Spread of the Flu
(Des Moines, IA) – Each year, it seems we need to be reminded about the importance of the severity of an Iowa winter. Periodically, we need to be reminded about the importance of floods. This winter, we are getting a stark reminder of why we must take influenza seriously.
The latest flu report shows that flu activity in the state of Iowa is widespread. Forty-two other states have widespread flu activity as well, which indicates that the flu is not slowing down anytime soon. The Polk County Department urges individuals it’s not too late to get their flu vaccine if they haven’t already.
“The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the spread of the flu,” said Rick Kozin, director of Polk County Health Department. “However, we know that vaccines do not provide 100% protection and do not provide protection immediately, so individuals need to practice additional preventative measures to ensure their health during flu season including frequent hand washing and staying home when you are ill.”
According to Polk County Medical Examiner, Gregory Schmunk, M.D., influenza has caused or has been a contributing cause in the deaths of 6 Polk County residents since the fall. Children and the elderly are both at high risk for flu complications and deaths, so it’s important they get vaccinated. However, it is just as important that everyone around them is vaccinated because it helps to reduce the spread of flu throughout our community.
“The flu vaccine you receive contains protection from 3 or 4 different strains of the flu,” said Kozin. “Some of the H3N2 viruses circulating nationally and in Iowa are the drifted strain. Although this drifted strain is not an exact match, the vaccine should offer partial protection.”
If individuals are still questioning if the flu shot or mist can give you the flu, it cannot. The flu viruses in the flu shot are inactivated or dead and the viruses in the mist are weakened, which means they can’t give you the illness. After you initially get the shot, you might have soreness, redness or swelling in the spot where the shot was given. This doesn’t last very long, normally only two days. The initial soreness is because your body’s immune system is reacting to a foreign substance entering the body. Sometimes you might also experience some mild side effects such as a low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches. This is often because your body’s immune system is making proactive antibodies to the killed viruses in the vaccine and weakened viruses in the mist. These antibodies allow your body to fight the flu.
Make sure to cover your mouth and nose when you cough, sneeze or talk. The flu is an airborne, respiratory virus that is spread through droplets when an infected individual coughs or talks. Individuals can be contagious before showing symptoms and can be contagious up to a week after symptoms resolve.
Someone who is infected with the flu may have not covered their mouth when coughing and those infected germs could be found on surfaces you come into contact with. Individuals need to wash their hands frequently. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
“We know the flu is here and it is not going away for a while,” Kozin states. “The choice is ours, we can either ignore the dangers of the flu or we can take precautions by getting vaccinated and practice good hand washing to minimize the impact on our children, families and community.”
Some individuals, like young children, the elderly, pregnant women and people with chronic health conditions are at higher risk for complications like pneumonia, hospitalization or even death. Individuals with high risk complications should receive the pneumonia vaccine as well to prevent additional complications.
The best way to recover from the flu is to stay home, get plenty of rest, drink a lot of fluids and treat symptoms such as fever and cough with over the counter medications. Local hospitals are implementing visitor restrictions to only two visitors at a time and all visitors need to be in good health before visiting a patient. If you have a fever and any flu symptoms including chills, sore throat, running or stuffy nose, body aches, headache or fatigue, call your health care provider. Flu vaccinations are still available at the Polk County Health Department. We are open Monday – Friday from 8:30 am – 4:00 pm and Tuesdays until 6:00 pm. For more information regarding the flu or flu vaccine, please visit our web site at www.polkcountyiowa.gov/health.