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Flu shot: It’s not all about you

November 29th, 2013 2:28 pm by Leigh Ann Laube

Flu shot: It’s not all about you

Tennessee has a much better than average immunization rate, with more than 47 percent vaccinated for the 2011-2012 flu season.

Health departments across Tennessee are seeing plenty of respiratory viruses, predominately rhinovirus, but there’s been no sign of the flu yet. That’s going to change soon.

In October, well before the late December and January peak season for flu, health officials from Tennessee and Virginia gathered to stress the importance of having a flu shot. It’s a sign of solidarity they have shown for the last several years in an attempt to combat the complacency some folks have toward protecting themselves from flu.

Tennessee has a much better flu immunization rate than many other states, said Dr. Stephen May, medical director of the Sullivan County Regional Health Department. For the 2011-2012 flu season, more than 47 percent of Tennesseans were vaccinated. Influenza puts more than 200,000 Americans in the hospital each year, and for some, it’s a life-threatening or even fatal illness. In Tennessee, it’s not uncommon for a couple of children to die annually from flu.

“We all know the flu vaccine does not offer 100 percent protection for everybody. There are high-dose vaccines for the elderly over 65, and now we’re immunizing young children. Our motto is ‘Protect the ones you love. Get your flu shot,’ May said. ... “The flu may not bother you too bad, but those with high risk factors or co-morbid complications can certainly die.”

Since the vaccine doesn’t guarantee immunity from the flu, May recommended other steps to protect yourself.

“Adequate sleep and exercise, and decreasing your risk of exposure. That’s the first thing,” he said. “The second is preventative measures such as if you have cough, cold, congestion, keep it covered. If you’re ill, stay out of work. Don’t pass the illness to others in your work environment. Those are the big things. Tertiary prevention is when you think you’ve got the flu, stay away from other people and see your physician within 48 hours. There are antivirals we can use that may prevent complications in those who are particularly high risk. For most people, it’s symptomatic treatment and wait it out. For high risk, we have the antivirals that may reduce complications and shorten the course.”

It’s also good practice to wash your hands frequently, especially since touching objects like door handles and other surfaces can be difficult to avoid. Alcohol-based soaps and hand sanitizers are good substitutes for soap and water when you’re on the go.

Flu is spread person-to-person through respiratory droplets from a cough or sneeze. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most people who get flu will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some will develop complications including pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus and ear infections.

Flu symptoms include a 100 degree F., or higher fever or feeling feverish; a cough and/or sore throat; a runny or stuffy nose; headaches and/or body aches; chills; fatigue; nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (most common in children).

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