SPRINGFIELD — With increasing influenza activity in the state, Illinois Department of Public Health Director Dr. LaMar Hasbrouck is encouraging everyone 6 months and older to get a flu vaccine during Vaccinate Illinois Week, Dec. 7-13.
Vaccinate Illinois Week coincides with National Influenza Vaccination Week, a national observance established to highlight the importance of continuing influenza vaccination and encourage more people to be vaccinated during the holiday season and into the new year.
“Previous flu seasons have shown the number of people being vaccinated drops quickly after November, but this is typically when we start seeing increased flu activity, which we currently are. If you haven’t received your flu vaccine, it’s not too late,” Hasbrouck said. “Know that you have taken the single-best preventive measure to help protect yourself and your loved ones this holiday season by getting vaccinated.”
Flu activity doesn’t usually peak until January or February in the United States, and the season can last as late as May. As long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination can help provide protection.
Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, but it is not typically associated with respiratory flu. People with flu symptoms should stay home 24 hours after the fever is gone (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine). Antiviral drugs can make illness milder, shorten the length of illness and may prevent serious complications. Complications of the flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions. Pregnant women, young children, people 65 years and older, and anyone with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or a weakened immune system are at greater risk of complications from infection.
One of the biggest myths about the flu is a person gets the flu from a flu vaccine. The influenza vaccine cannot give you the flu. Why? Because the flu shot contains killed viruses, and the nasal spray has weakened viruses that cannot cause illness. If you get flu-like symptoms soon after being vaccinated, it can mean you may have been exposed to the flu before getting vaccinated, or during the two-week period it takes the body to build up protection after vaccination. It might also mean you are sick with another illness that causes symptoms similar to the flu.
Vaccination is important for health care workers and others who live with or care for high-risk people to keep from spreading flu to high risk people. For example, children younger than six months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated.
Flu shots and the nasal spray are available in many doctor’s offices, local health departments, health clinics, pharmacies and other health care providers.
For information about flu vaccinations, contact the Madison County Health Department at (618) 692-8954 or call (800) 526-4372.
To reduce the spread of flu, practice the 3 C’s:
- Clean – properly wash your hands frequently
- Cover – cover your cough and sneeze
- Contain – contain your germs by staying home if you are sick
More information about influenza can be found at http://www.idph.state.il.us/flu/index.htm.