The Times West Virginian

Opinion

January 23, 2014

Getting a flu shot now helps prevent chance of illness later

Some things about winter never change.

It’s cold.

There will likely be snow.

And people you know (or maybe even you) will get the flu.

With positive cases of the flu as well as a lot of influenza-like illness being reported in Marion County, it’s important to do everything possible to stay healthy.

Earlier this month, officials at the Marion County Health Department said 31 cases of the flu had been reported locally. Of those cases, almost all were influenza type A, and many were H1N1, which is a strain of influenza type A. The county also had received 107 reports of influenza-like illness.

Patients are diagnosed with influenza-like illness when they have a fever of 100 degrees or higher along with a cough or sore throat, but no other symptoms. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, chills and headaches, and just feeling bad and general malaise.

And with flu season typically lasting through March, there are still plenty of steps you can take to help ensure you don’t get sick.

Health officials have long touted getting a flu shot as the best defense against the flu. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states, vaccination against the flu can reduce the chances of flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work due to flu as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.

The flu shot is recommended for everyone, but especially for children, people over 65, pregnant women and individuals with chronic diseases. People with egg allergies or who have had allergic reactions related to the flu vaccine in the past should not get the immunization. In addition, the vaccine should not be given to individuals who have had Guillain-Barre syndrome.

And, as the CDC points out, the flu vaccine cannot give you the flu. The most common side effects from a flu shot are soreness where the shot was given, a low fever or achiness. Those who receive the nasal spray flu vaccine might experience congestion, runny nose, sore throat or cough. Health officials remind patients that side effects are usually mild and short-lived.

Of course, protection doesn’t end with the flu shot. It’s also important to remember some basic courtesies: Wash your hands. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze. Simple steps like these help prevent getting the flu or making others ill.

And perhaps most important — health officials say if you’re sick, stay home.

The health department, located at 300 Second St. in Fairmont, holds an immunization clinic from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. every Wednesday. No appointments are accepted, as these services are for walk-ins only. Once people have received the vaccine, it takes up to two weeks to develop complete immunity and protection.

West Virginia is among 40 states in the U.S. reporting widespread flu activity, and health officials say it isn’t too late to get vaccinated.

With two months of the flu season left, it’s better to be safe than sorry.

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