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National Influenza Week 2014

December 11, 2014
First Lady Sandra Deal receives her flu shot from nurse Tracy Raymond, RN.

Nothing can ruin your holiday celebrations like being stuck in bed with the flu. Why run the risk of getting hit with an illness you can prevent? The Georgia Department of Public Health has some useful information for you!

Getting a flu vaccination is the first and most important step in protecting against flu and its potentially serious complications. National Influenza Vaccination Week is Dec. 7-13 and if you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, now is a good time to do so.

This flu season is likely to be a tough one for 2 reasons.  First, more than 90% of the influenza specimens tested nationwide are Influenza A H3N2 (H3N2), and the rates of hospitalization and deaths are typically higher in seasons when H3N2 is the dominant strain. Second, about half of the H3N2 viruses found so far this flu season don’t match the vaccine produced for the 2014-2015 season. The virus has mutated, or changed slightly, since the vaccine was formulated early this year.

While the flu can vary from season to season, the fact remains the single most effective way to prevent the flu is the flu vaccine.

“Every healthy individual over the age of 6 months should get a flu vaccine,” said Brenda Fitzgerald, M.D., commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health. “It is especially important for the elderly and very young to get a flu shot. And, when given to women during pregnancy, the vaccine has shown to protect both the mother and her baby up to 6 months old from flu.”   

Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, chills and fatigue. One of the most pronounced flu symptoms is an overall feeling of achiness and malaise that comes on quickly.

There are other things you can do to help protect against the flu, including:

  • Frequent and thorough hand washing. Alcohol based gels are the next best thing if there is no access to soap and water.
  • Covering your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing to help prevent the spread of the flu. Use a tissue or cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow or arm.
  • Avoid touching your face as flu germs can get into the body through mucus membranes of the nose, mouth and eyes.
  • If you are sick, stay home from school or work. Flu sufferers should be free of a fever without the use of a fever reducer for at least 24 hours before returning to work or school.

Take preventive measures now to protect yourself and your family from the flu, and encourage others to get a flu vaccine, too. Make time to get a flu shot during National Influenza Vaccination Week Dec. 7-13, and help spread the gift of health this holiday season and on into 2015.

For more information about the flu and how to prevent it, log onto http://www.flu.gov/ or visit http://dph.georgia.gov/seasonal-flu-influenza.

About the Author

Eric Jens is the Risk Communicator for the Georgia Department of Public Health. He received his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a major in Mass Communications, specializing in broadcast radio and tv.

He began his role as Georgia’s Public Health risk communicator in April, 2012. Among his collaborative projects are the state’s School Based Flu and HPV marketing campaigns, development of Georgia Responds, the state’s collective network of volunteers, and overall risk communication planning for BioWatch, Strategic National Stockpile, and others involving Public Health.

Photo Courtesy of Alan Riquelmy/Rome News-Tribune

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