INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — As the flu season comes in full swing, the Florida Department of Health is urging residents to get vaccine shots to fight infections and prevent the virus from spreading to others.
“By getting a flu shot and practicing good hand washing techniques, we can help prevent the spread of the flu”, said Miranda Hawker, department of health administrator. “Everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated, even if they got the flu shot last season.”
Most cases of the flu are mild, but there are some exceptions. Flu activity is on the rise in the state, particularly in groups at high risk for severe illness such as children, pregnant women, people with underlying chronic conditions and people over the age of 65, officials said.
Visits to emergency departments for influenza also are increasing in these high risk groups.
Influenza, or the flu, is a respiratory infection caused by a variety of flu viruses, according to the department of health. The “flu” is a common catch-all term used for a variety of illnesses, but it correctly applies only to the upper respiratory disease caused by the influenza virus.
An average of about 36,000 people in the United States die each year from influenza, according to the department of health. About 114,000 have to be admitted to hospitals each year because of an infection.
The annual flu vaccine is safe and the most effective way to protect yourself and your loved ones, officials said. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for your body to develop protection against the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people get injectable flu shots. Nasal spray vaccine is not recommended for this flu season because of concerns about its effectiveness.
The flu vaccine is offered in many convenient locations, such as doctor’s offices, clinics, retail stores, pharmacies, health centers, employers and schools, officials said. Those who want to search for a vaccine location near them can visit the department’s flu shot locater page.
Here are some tips from the department of health to help prevent spreading the flu:
- Washing your hands with soap and water frequently, or using alcohol hand sanitizers when soap and water is not available
- Cleaning and disinfecting commonly used surfaces in your home, school or office
- Coughing or sneezing into a tissue or your elbow
- Avoiding touching your face as germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
- Staying home from work when sick and keeping sick children home from school to help prevent spreading the flu to others
Symptoms of the flu include:
- Body aches and pains
- Cough and chest discomfort which may become severe
- Early and significant exhaustion
- Fatigue and weakness that may last up to 2–3 weeks
- High fever (102–104 degrees F) for 3–4 days
- Occasional stuffy nose, sneezing and sore throat
For more information about the flu, visit the department of health website.