The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. COURTESY PHOTO

CHI Franciscan Health highlights the importance of flu vaccines

As the 2017-2018 flu season approaches, CHI Franciscan urges Washington state residents to protect themselves and their families by getting their flu shot

  • Thursday, October 19, 2017 11:40am
  • Life

CHI Franciscan Health is raising awareness about the upcoming 2017-2018 flu season and the importance of receiving the flu vaccination for residents across Washington state.

“It is so important to protect ourselves and our families this cold and flu season by making sure you get your flu shot as soon as possible,” said Dr. Olympia Tachopoulou, director of infection control for St. Joseph Hospital in Tacoma, part of CHI Franciscan Health. “Getting vaccinated reduces the risk of contracting the flu by 60 percent. Influenza causes high fever up to 104 F, muscle aches, respiratory difficulty and can lead to the need for a hospital admission.”

Influenza – commonly called “flu” – is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. These viruses are spread when a person who has the flu coughs, sneezes or touches a surface handled by others. It can be mild or severe and infects millions of Americans every year.

On average, more than 225,000 people are hospitalized annually for seasonal flu-related complications. In Washington state, 276 laboratory-confirmed flu deaths were reported for the 2016-2017 flu season. The flu season begins in late October and runs through February.

The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. It takes up to two weeks after vaccination for protection or immunity to develop in the majority of adults. The Center for Disease Control recommends everyone receive a flu vaccine, but it is particularly important for people who are at high risk for serious complications from flu, including young children, people over the age of 65 and people who are high risk because they are pregnant or have a specific illness, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and autoimmune diseases.

“It is especially important for high risk individuals – including pregnant women and those with diabetes or heart disease – to take the necessary precautions to get the flu vaccine,” Tachopoulou added. “High risk individuals are at greater risk of experiencing severe complications or even death if they contract the flu virus.”

CHI Franciscan Health is offering flu shots at most of its primary care, women’s care and urgent care locations. Most urgent care locations can only provide flu shots for patients 19 years of age or older.

For more information on influenza visit cdc.gov/flu.

The CDC recommends taking three steps to fight the flu:

Take time to get a flu vaccine.

• CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.

• While there are many different flu viruses, a flu vaccine protects against the viruses that research suggests will be most common.

• Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every year before flu activity begins in their community.

• Vaccination of high risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness.

• People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.

• Vaccination also is important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high risk people to keep from spreading flu to them.

• Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated.

Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.

• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.

• If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)

• While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.

• 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 the flu.

Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

• If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can treat your illness.

• Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter.

• Antiviral drugs can make your illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They can also prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia.

• It’s very important that antiviral drugs be used early (within the first 2 days of symptoms) to treat people who are very sick with the flu and people who are sick with the flu and have a greater chance of getting serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a high-risk medical condition. Other people also may be treated with antiviral drugs by their doctor this season.

• Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms, without fever.

More information: chifranciscan.org.

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