Never too soon to get ready for flu

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By The Staff

    It’s hard to believe, but flu season is upon us.

    Seasonal Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness. This means that it can affect your nose, throat, bronchial tubes, and lungs.

    It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. The best way to prevent or lessen the severity of the flu is to be vaccinated every fall.            

    Flu vaccination usually begins in September, or as soon as vaccine becomes available.

    Last year, a new and different flu virus (called 2009 H1N1) spread worldwide causing the first flu pandemic in over 40 years. The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against the 2009 H1N1 virus (Swine Flu virus), as well as an influenza

    A H3N2 virus and an influenza B virus. Vaccination of high-risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness.

    According to the Center for Disease Control, high-risk persons include children under 5 years of age, Adults over 65 years of age, pregnant women, and people with medical conditions.

    Influenza vaccine has a very good safety record, and hundreds of millions of Americans have received vaccination.         There are two types of flu vaccine:  the flu shot, which is an inactivated (or killed) vaccine which is given with a needle in the arm, or the nasal spray flu vaccine, which is a live, weakened vaccine which is a spray taken up the nose.

    The shot is approved for use in people over six months of age, including people with chronic medical conditions.

    The nasal spray vaccine is approved for use in healthy people ages 2-49 who are not pregnant.

    Anyone who wishes to reduce their chances of getting the flu can be vaccinated, but the recommendation is that the following groups be vaccinated each year:

    * Children aged 6 months to 5 years

    * Pregnant women

    * People aged 50 and older

    * People of any age with certain chronic health conditions

    * People who live in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities

    * People who live with or care for those at high risk for flu complications

    If you are severely allergic to eggs, have ever had a severe allergic reaction to an influenza vaccination, or have a child that is younger than six months of age, you should contact your physician before receiving flu vaccinations.

    Seasonal flu, as with most viruses, is very contagious.

    Certain precautions can be taken to help protect against the spread of the virus. It is important to understand that vaccination is the primary way we can protect ourselves, but another general way is to make sure our hands are clean.

    Keeping our hands clean is one of the most important steps we can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others.

    Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.

    Make sure to wash hands thoroughly for 20 seconds scrubbing the palms, between fingers, fingernails, the back of the hands, and wrists. If soap and clean water are not accessible, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer product containing at least 60 percent alcohol to clean hands.

    Use hand sanitizer on your hands the same way you would soap and water, making sure to continuously rub it into your hands until they are dry.

    There are certain times when it is especially important to clean your hands. These include:

    * Before, during, and after preparing food

    * Before and after eating food

    * After using the toilet

    * After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet

    * Before and after tending to someone who is sick

    * After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing

    * After handling an animal or animal waste

    * After handling garbage

    * Before and after treating a cut or wound

    For more information regarding the flu and flu vaccinations, you can contact the Bullitt County Health Department at (502) 543-2415, or visit the Center for Disease Control’s website at www.cdc.gov/flu.