A flu shot can protect you and everyone around you | SummitDaily.com

A flu shot can protect you and everyone around you

With flu season upon us, Summit County Public Health is urging residents to get vaccinated.

“At best, an influenza infection is a very unpleasant experience that can put you out of commission for a week or more,” said Public Health Nurse Sara Lopez. “At its worst, it can be deadly, even in an otherwise healthy person.”

The flu is a respiratory illness caused by the influenza viruses. Last year, there were 1,759 influenza-associated hospitalizations in Colorado, three of which were in Summit County, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. During the 2009-10 flu season statewide, the department reported 2,041 hospitalizations and 69 influenza-associated deaths, 12 of which were pediatric.

“To put it in perspective, your chance of contracting Ebola, which is getting a lot of attention right now, is about one in 13 million in the United States. Your chance of falling ill with the flu can be as high as one in five, depending on the severity of the flu season,” Lopez said.

Reported influenza-associated hospitalizations in Colorado peaked last year during the first week of January, but a flu epidemic can peak at any time during flu season, generally considered to be October through May.

“Now is a great time to get your flu vaccine. Flu typically peaks during the winter, but we are already seeing cases in Summit County,” Lopez said. “After receiving a flu vaccine, it takes about two weeks for antibodies to develop inside your body to provide immunity.”

Flu symptoms include fever, chills, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people experience vomiting and diarrhea, but these symptoms are more common in children than adults. Not all individuals who contract the flu exhibit a fever.

As a respiratory illness, the flu is generally spread through the air when an infected person coughs, sneezes and talks. The flu can be passed on to others one day before symptoms develop and up to seven days afterward, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“The best way to protect against influenza is by getting vaccinated every year. And when you get a flu shot, you’re not just protecting yourself — you’re protecting the people around you, including older people, pregnant women, young children and other vulnerable individuals. If you don’t get the flu, you can’t spread it to others,” Lopez said.

“In addition, you can protect yourself, your family and your community by performing good hand washing, covering your cough and staying home when you’re ill,” Lopez added.

Summit County Public Health recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older annually receive the flu vaccine, available via flu shot or nasal spray.

The influenza viruses change every year, and each year’s flu vaccine compositions are updated to provide the best protection. Furthermore, immunity declines over time, making annual vaccinations the best strategy against the flu.

Free and low-cost vaccinations are available through several organizations, health care providers, pharmacies and employers throughout Summit County. Flu vaccines are safe, with a proven track record stretching back for decades. Vaccine safety is closely monitored by the CDC and FDA, and hundreds of millions of flu vaccinations have been safely administered in the U.S. Allergic reactions to flu vaccines are extremely rare.

No flu vaccine is 100 percent effective at preventing the flu, and its ability to prevent illness varies from year to year. The benefits of a given flu vaccination depend on the characteristics of the person (including age and general health) and the match between the vaccine and the particular flu viruses circulating among the population.

“Even though the vaccine can’t provide an absolute guarantee that you won’t get the flu, there are plenty of reasons to get vaccinated,” Lopez said. “Your chances of getting sick from the flu will be substantially reduced, and if you do get sick, your symptoms could be much less severe.”

To learn more about influenza and the flu vaccine, contact Summit County Public Health at (970) 668-9161, or visit http://www.flu.gov.

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