The holidays are a time where family, friends and colleagues come together to share good food, good conversations and good memories. However, it can also be a time where illnesses, like influenza (or the flu) can also be shared, especially the very young, adults over 65 and individuals with underlying health concerns.
The best gift to give over the holidays is to get the influenza vaccine not only to protect yourself, but those you love. And, this year is no exception. Everyone over the age of six months should receive influenza vaccine every year.
In fact, healthcare providers in Fond du Lac County have seen a significant increase in influenza activity within the last two weeks with several people being hospitalized due to complications from influenza.
So far this influenza season, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported five pediatric deaths from influenza, and the Wisconsin Department of Health has reported 26 hospitalization including four pregnant women. This influenza season is off to an earlier and more severe start in Wisconsin.
“Even though the influenza season is here, it is not too late to get vaccinated,” according to Diane Cappozzo, Fond du Lac County health officer. “Vaccine is readily available at most healthcare providers, many pharmacies; and at the Fond du Lac County Health Department.”
It is easy to confuse influenza and the stomach “flu,” according to Kayla Ericksen, Agnesian HealthCare infection preventionist.
“Many people continue to confuse influenza and the stomach “flu,” Ericksen says. “Influenza is a respiratory illness with symptoms that can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, head ache and fatigue (feeling very tired). Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children. Influenza is spread when an infected person coughs sneezes or talks. Less often, a person might also get influenza by touching a surface or object that has influenza virus on it and then touching their mouth, eyes or their nose.”
People with influenza can spread the disease to others one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.
“This is why getting vaccinated is so important to prevent the spread of influenza,” says Warren Post, MD, a board-certified pediatrician with Agnesian HealthCare and Board of Health member. “Vaccination is especially important for children, adults 65 and older, pregnant women and people with asthma (even if it’s controlled or mild), diabetes, and other medical conditions that effect the heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, blood nervous system and immune system as well as those who are obese.
“It is also very important for those who live with or have contact with anyone in these groups to also be vaccinated with particular emphasis on those who have contact with children younger than six months of age. They are at highest risk of influenza-related complications but are too young to receive influenza vaccine,” Dr. Post adds.
For more information on influenza, influenza vaccine and its availability please contact the Fond du Lac County Health Department at (920) 929-3085 or (800) 547-3640.