Flu season can be a worrisome time. Those long months often feel twice as scary when the vaccine effectiveness is helpful but low or a new virus strain emerges. That’s why during flu season it’s critical that you do all you can to prevent the spread of flu and other illnesses.
Influenza, also called the flu, is a serious respiratory disease caused by influenza viruses. If you test positive, the effects can range from mild to severe. The season can begin as early as October and continue even well into May. Because the flu causes about 200,000 hospital admissions and as many as 49,000 deaths annually, physicians recommend that everyone six months and older get a flu vaccine.
Who is most at risk?
While anyone can catch the flu, some people are naturally at a higher risk of getting sick when exposed, including those who are:
- 65 years of age and older
- immunocompromised by HIV, hepatitis or cancer
- living with, or caring for, someone who is immunocompromised or elderly
- treating chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease and lung disease
How do you prevent the spread of illness?
It’s actually quite easy to prevent the spread of viruses to others. Here are a few ways you can protect yourself and others from illness-causing bacteria.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.
- Clean your hands often.
- Use soap and water to wash your hands or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Get a flu shot. The vaccine reduces your risk of getting the flu. If you get the flu despite being vaccinated, your symptoms are often less intense and ease more quickly.
“While it is not 100 percent effective at preventing the flu, it does have some degree of effectiveness and it is the best thing we have to protect you from something potentially life threatening,” Dr. Brandon McElroy, a Beaufort Memorial board-certified internal medicine specialist, says of the vaccine.
How do you know if you have the flu?
If you suspect you’re ill, stay home and avoid close contact with people. Your physician can determine if you have the flu or another virus. Do not visit anyone — especially in health care facilities — if you have any of the following symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Runny or congested nose
- Body aches
If you suspect you have the flu, try Beaufort Memorial’s BMH Care Anywhere, which can connect you with a provider in a virtual visit. Receive treatment for a range of minor health issues such as colds, bronchitis, cough, sinus infection, influenza and more without visiting an office or emergency clinic.