Local experts advise getting flu shot before holidays

public-healthThe health department is encouraging people to get a flu shot now so they are protected from the virus during the holiday season. They say flu germs are likely to be present at holiday parties, crowded shopping areas and on airplanes.

“It’s quite common to see a spike in influenza cases right after the holidays,” says Tiffany Klassen, health director, Cass County Health Department. “Once you get a flu shot it takes about two weeks for your immune system to build the antibodies your body needs to protect you from the flu. Take the time now to get a flu shot so you’re ready to fight off any germs you encounter while out shopping, traveling on airplanes or at holiday gatherings where you’ll be in close contact with many people.”

Every year the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) declares the second week in December as National Influenza Vaccination Week. The CDC says flu vaccination can reduce flu illness, doctors’ visits, missed work due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. Getting vaccinated against the flu also helps protect your family and friends. If you don’t get the flu, you can’t give it to them.

“The flu vaccine is safe and is still the best way to protect yourself against this potentially serious disease,” says Klassen.

Klassen recommends that those who contract flu-like symptoms – fever, cough, muscle/body aches, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, fatigue – contact their health care provider within 48 hours to see if antiviral medications would be appropriate. She says older people, very young children and people with certain chronic medical conditions can be at high risk for serious complications, and medications can mean the difference between having a milder illness instead of very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.

Washing your hands often with soap and water, covering your coughs and sneezes and staying away from people who are sick are other good ways to reduce your chances of getting all sorts of illness, including the flu, she adds.

Most health departments in the Kansas City metro area have flu vaccine available. Please contact the health department in your city or county for vaccine availability and hours of operation or go to www.flu.gov to find a vaccine provider near you.

More information about influenza, symptoms and prevention tips can be found at thttp://www.cdc.gov/flu/keyfacts.htm

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