By KEN SEVERSON
Indiana State Department of Health
Influenza season is well underway, and state health officials urge Hoosiers to take preventative steps now to prevent the flu. Influenza can be serious, but is preventable in most cases by getting vaccinated.
“Influenza is unpredictable,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., MPH. “While we don’t know how severe this flu season will be, we do know that influenza claims several thousand lives in the U.S. every year. The best way to protect you and your family from flu is to get vaccinated.”
Influenza or the “flu” is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. Influenza is spread by respiratory droplets from close contact with infected persons or contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Infection can occur when influenza viruses contact the eyes, mouth, or nose, and possibly through inhaling droplets from a sneeze or cough. Sometimes people may become infected by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with influenza viruses and then touching their eyes, mouth, or nose.
Symptoms of the flu include:
• Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater
• Muscle aches
• Sore throat
Although anyone can get the flu, some people are at higher risk of complications related to the flu, sometimes leading to hospitalization and even death. High risk individuals include pregnant women, young children (especially those younger than 6 months who cannot be vaccinated), people with chronic illnesses and/or compromised immune systems and the elderly.
“It’s still early in the flu season,” said Adams. “Now is the time to get vaccinated if you haven’t done so already.”
The Indiana State Department of Health suggests following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation that everyone over the age of 6 months get the vaccine this year.
There are some additional steps people can take to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory diseases like pertussis – whooping cough:
• Clean – properly wash your hands frequently.
• Cover – cover your cough and sneeze.
• Contain – contain your germs by staying home (or keep children home from school) if sick.
It’s important to note that stomach flu, or viral gastroenteritis, is a different illness from influenza.
It is a viral infection of the intestinal tract, spread through eating or drinking contaminated food or drink or through close contact with an infected person. Flu vaccine will not prevent viral gastroenteritis, but frequent hand washing, disinfecting contaminated surfaces and prompt washing of soiled clothing and blankets will reduce the risk of spreading it.
Individuals who are experiencing diarrhea or vomiting should not prepare food.
To find a flu vaccine location near you or to learn more about the influenza, visit the Indiana State Department of Health at www.StateHealth.in.gov. Follow the Indiana State Department of Health on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/isdh1.