Get vaccinated, wash hands often to prepare for flu season

Chris Tucker ctucker@ptleader.com
Posted 1/23/18

As flu activity increasing across the country and flu-like symptoms cause more people to make a trip to the hospital, officials with Jefferson County Public Health want the public to know when to …

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Get vaccinated, wash hands often to prepare for flu season

Posted

As flu activity increasing across the country and flu-like symptoms cause more people to make a trip to the hospital, officials with Jefferson County Public Health want the public to know when to seek emergency medical care and when to stay home.

Although the number of cases of flu is higher than normal nationally, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a representative of Jefferson Healthcare said the flu isn’t hammering Jefferson County especially hard – yet.

“As far as we can see, this is just a seasonal increase,” said Amy Yaley, director of marketing and communications for Jefferson Healthcare, in an email to The Leader. “January tends to be the time when we see a spike in flu cases.”

“We continue to encourage the community to get their flu shot and practice good hand hygiene,” Yaley wrote. Yaley said 93.6 percent of Jefferson Healthcare employees have had their flu shot.

“Those who couldn’t receive the vaccination take extra precautions to prevent the spread of the flu virus. Our infection control manager is telling us that initially we are seeing a 10-30 percent efficacy rate for the vaccination. We could see that rate increase as we get further into the season,” she said, referring to the fact that although the vaccine increases the odds one will not get the flu, it is not perfect.

“Additionally, the vaccination may potentially reduce flu symptoms if you do get the flu,” Yaley wrote.

Jefferson County Public Health officials also urge anyone older than 6 months of age who hasn’t been vaccinated this year to get a flu shot now to protect themselves.

According to the state Department of Health, influenza – commonly called the “flu” – is a highly contagious disease that infects the nose, throat and lungs, and can cause moderate to severe illness, and sometimes death.

Flu symptoms typically include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.

Flu vaccine (also known as the flu shot) is available for everyone ages 6 months and older, including pregnant women. Flu shots are readily available at most pharmacy locations and clinics.

Annual flu vaccination is the best method of prevention against illness, followed by covering one’s mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, properly washing one’s hands and staying home from school or work when sick.

The emergency room is meant for people who are very sick. Those who are only mildly ill should not got to the ER; instead, they should contact their health care provider, according to the state Department of Health.

FLU WORSE THAN USUAL NATIONWIDE

According to the CDC, the proportion of outpatient visits for influenza-like illness at the national level is 5.8 percent, which is above the national baseline of 2.2 percent. Currently, most of the flu cases are of the influenza A(H3N2) type.

Washington state has reported a high level of influenza-like activity, according to the CDC.

A total of 20 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported nationwide for the 2017-2018 flu season, according to the CDC.

Across the U.S., a total of 6,486 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations were reported between Oct. 1, 2017 and Jan. 6, 2018, the CDC states. The overall hospitalization rate was 22.7 per 100,000 population with the highest rate of hospitalization being among adults older than age 64 (98.0 per 100,000 population), followed by adults ages 50-64 (24.0 per 100,000 population).

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