The United States experiences annual epidemics of seasonal influenza. Influenza (also known as “flu”) viruses are most common during the fall and winter months. Flu activity often begins to increase in October and November and peaks between December and February.

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Flu signs and symptoms usually come on suddenly. People who are sick with flu often have a fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headache, and tiredness.

What can you do to stay “flu free” this winter? Get vaccinated. Everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine with very few exceptions. Flu vaccination is always the best way to prevent flu and its potentially serious complications. Flu vaccination prevents millions of illnesses and flu-related doctor’s visits each year and lessens the severity of the illness for those who do get the flu.

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), during the 2019-2020 flu season, vaccination prevented an estimated 7.5 million influenza illnesses, 3.7 million influenza-associated medical visits, 105,000 influenza-associated hospitalizations, and 6,300 influenza-associated deaths. Reducing flu related hospitalizations will help with hospital capacity as they struggle to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Learn how to practice good health habits. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too. Stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses like COVID-19, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are spread by cough, sneezing, or unclean hands. Wash your hands frequently. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work, or school, especially when someone is ill.

For more information on preventing respiratory type illnesses or to get your flu vaccine contact the Health Department at 740-342-5179.

The Perry County Health Department is working to keep you healthy where you live, work and play. For more information about any program or service offered by the Perry County Health Department contact us at 342-5179, visit us online at www.perryhealth.com and follow us on Facebook.

Walk-in appointments are available Monday-Friday from 7:30-3:30 for anyone needing the COVID-19 vaccine. To ask about your eligibility for the Pfizer Booster (available 6 months from your second dose) call the Health Department at 740-342-5179.

Deborah Raney is the director of health education at the Perry County Health Department and is a weekly contributor to the Perry County Tribune.

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