Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Health officials recommend flu vaccine


December 30, 2014

QCS Senior Writer

A regional medical director and the federal Centers for Disease Control recommend getting the flu vaccination and staying home if ill with the flu to prevent the spread of the virus during the current influenza season.

While some of the viruses spreading this season are not prevented by the current vaccine, health officials say receiving the current vaccine can still provide protection and might reduce severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death.

Flu virus activity nationwide has continued to increase. New Mexico reports moderate illness rates, but nearby states, including Texas, Arkansas and Kansas show high rates of influenza-like illness, according to a Dec. 20 CDC report.

The most common type of flu virus causing illness is the Influenza A (H3N2) virus, but to date, the CDC has found 248 influenza viruses active in the nation.

“For November and December we have had a considerable higher number of flu cases compared to last year at both Plains Regional Medical Center in Clovis and Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital in Tucumcari,” said Donna

Thibodeau chief medical director for PRMC.

Thibodeau said some of the patients seen at both hospitals had received flu shots in late October and early November, which has not allowed enough time for the vaccine to take effect. She said on average it takes six to eight weeks for the flu vaccination to take hold.

Every flu season is different, but mostly the peak season for the flu is the end of January, February and early March, she said.

“I strongly encourage people to get the flu vaccination if they haven't already,” Thibodeau said.

Data collected by the CDC show most people who get the flu will have mild illness, will not need medical care or antiviral drugs, and will recover in less than two weeks.

Some in high-risk populations, especially children, the elderly and those with other health conditions, are more likely to get flu complications that result in hospitalization, and even death.

The flu can worsen chronic health problems, such as asthma and chronic congestive heart failure, she said.

Thibodeau said persons in high-risk categories are more likely to contract the flu, since their immune systems are weaker, or may develop additional health complications from contracting the virus. She said while it is important for everyone to get a flu vaccination this is even more so for children and the elderly.

The CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone 6 months old and older. There are documented benefits from flu vaccination, including reductions in illness and related doctors' visits, and missed work or school.

According to CDC data, vaccination also prevents flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.

Thibodeau said another way one may combat the flu is by helping to prevent the spread of the virus if one becomes ill. She said people should stay home if they are sick. People venturing out when they are experiencing flu-like symptoms is part of the reason there are so many cases of the flu this season. When people should be home resting, they have been socializing and preparing for the holidays, spreading the virus, Thibodeau said.

The CDC reports that people with flu can spread it to others up to about six feet away if they cough, sneeze or even talk. Infected droplets of moisture released in these ways can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or be inhaled into the lungs.

Less often, a person might also get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.

Thibodeau said it is important to wash hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, she recommended using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. She said people should use cough and sneeze techniques, such as coughing or sneezing into a sleeve or tissue, when in public to avoid spreading the virus.

Nothing, however, can replace plenty of rest, fluids, lots of sleep and a well balanced diet to protect one’s self from the flu, she said.

Most healthy adults may be able to infect other people beginning one day before symptoms develop and from five to seven days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer than a week.

Symptoms generally start one to four days after the virus enters the body. That means an infected person who shows no symptoms may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before the infected person knows they are sick, as well as while they are sick.

The CDC recommends a three-pronged approach to fighting flu: Get vaccinated, take everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of germs and take antiviral medications, if the doctor prescribes them, to treat the flu.


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