January 14, 2014
The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County (DOH-Escambia) reminds residents to protect themselves and their families from influenza (flu) infection. This season there has been a notable increase in the incidence of flu nationwide and in Escambia County, Florida. The H1N1 virus has been identified as the primary strain of the flu virus causing the most severe illness as well as numerous deaths nationwide.
Everyone six months and older should get vaccinated, especially adults 65 and older, children 5 and younger, pregnant women and caregivers of infants under 6 months of age, and those living with chronic health conditions. Pregnant women are especially encouraged to get vaccinated. Pregnancy’s effect on the immune system can cause a more severe infection leading to poor outcomes for both mother and baby. All pregnant women should make arrangements to receive the vaccination now if they have not already done so.
The flu vaccine may be given as a shot or a nasal spray. The flu shot is approved for use in people 6 months of age and older, including people with chronic medical conditions and pregnant women. The nasal spray is approved for use in people 2 through 49 years of age who do not have underlying medical conditions and are not pregnant. Flu vaccines are available at many physicians’ offices, clinics, and local pharmacies. The flu shot is offered free of charge for pregnant women on Medicaid at the Florida Department of Health in Escambia County. For residents not covered by Medicaid, the fee is $28.00. The vaccine takes approximately two weeks to become fully effective. Children may be able to receive the vaccine under the Federal Vaccine for Children Program.
Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and can sometimes lead to death. Symptoms of the flu may include cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and fever. Some people may also experience diarrhea and vomiting. Health officials advise individuals who are at risk of complications from influenza to contact their physicians immediately if flu symptoms appear. Individuals should see a physician early, as antiviral medications may be effective in reducing the severity of symptoms or the length of the illness.
Individuals can protect themselves and their families from the flu by practicing preventive behaviors. While the best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated every year, frequent hand washing is another important key to prevention. Individuals can spread the flu to others before they even know they are sick. The most effective ways to avoid spreading the flu are by covering coughs and sneezes with the elbow rather than the hand and by staying home when sick. Other healthy behaviors such as avoiding close contact with those who are sick, getting plenty of sleep, being physically active, and eating nutritious foods can also help in preventing the flu.
Persons experiencing flu symptoms or having questions regarding the flu and their health should contact their physician’s office. For more information about the flu, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/. Additional information can also be found at the Escambia County Health Department’s website, http://www.escambiahealth.com/.