Have you been vaccinated against getting the flu? If not, it is still not too late to get a flu shot! This week’s report from the PA Department of Health https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/Flu/Pages/Flu.aspx states that flu is widespread in PA and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can provide valuable information and updated PA flu activity at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease/65over.htm
It has been recognized for many years that people 65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu compared with young, healthy adults, because human immune defenses become weaker with age. People 65 years and older bear the greatest burden of severe flu disease. In recent years, it’s estimated that between about 70 and 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths have occurred in people 65 years and older.
If you are an adult with an immunosuppressed system (from recent sickness, chronic disease, medications or chemotherapy) you are at greater risk for flu and complications that could include bronchitis, pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, encephalitis, and pregnancy complications.
Flu viruses are very contagious and are spread from person to person when an infected person coughs or sneezes spreading virus-laden droplets up to three feet through the air. Flu also can be spread when droplets from a cough or sneeze are on hands, or land on objects like a doorknob, light switch, refrigerator door, bathroom or sink handles. If you touch an object and then touch your own or someone else’s mouth, nose or eyes before washing hands, the virus is spread.
You can pass the flu on to someone else both before you feel sick (no symptoms) and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. If you suffer from a suppressed immune system (or autoimmune disease) you are far more susceptible to contracting the flu. See your rheumatologist or family doctor and get a flu shot.
Flu symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever. Emergency signs of the flu include: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
In addition to getting the flu shot, people 65 years and older and the immunosupressed, should take the same everyday preventive actions CDC recommends of everyone, including covering coughs, washing hands often, and avoiding people who are sick.
Where can you get your flu shot today? Your doctor’s office, Urgent Care, pharmacy or drug store, clinics, health department, medical center and even some retail stores. For more information regarding flu vaccine availability for High Risk Individuals, please call 1-877-PA-HEALTH