October 22, 2018
Megan Smith, MSN, RN
Director of Quality and Safety
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), influenza (flu) killed and hospitalized more people, about 80,000 people, in the United States last winter than any seasonal influenza in decades. The previous high for a regular flu season dates back more than three decades where there were 56,000 deaths. As the new flu season gets underway, last year’s toll underscores the importance of getting a flu vaccine.
What is the flu?
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness that is caused by a virus. Symptoms can be mild to severe, and can result in hospitalization or death. Although the flu virus can be detected year-round, it is most common in the fall and winter months.
What are the symptoms?
People often use the term “flu” to describe any kind of mild illness, such as a cold or a stomach virus that has symptoms like the flu. But the real flu is different.
The flu causes a fever, body aches, a headache, a dry cough, and a sore or dry throat. You will probably feel tired and less hungry than usual. The symptoms usually are the worst for the first 3 or 4 days. But it can take 1 to 2 weeks to get completely better.
How does the flu spread?
Flu is spread from person to person up to 6 feet away, through droplets when coughing, sneezing, or talking and can live on hard surfaces for 24 hours. It’s important to know that people who have the flu are contagious for a day prior to symptoms developing and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick.
How can you protect yourself?
The most important thing you can do to protect yourself is to get the flu vaccine. For those 6 months and older the vaccine protects against 3 or 4 viruses that research suggests will be the most common. If you get the flu vaccine but still catch the flu, your symptoms will be milder. Other ways to protect yourself include: washing your hands; avoiding close contact with people that are sick; covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; cleaning and disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs; and limiting contact with others if you become ill. If you do get the flu, you should remain home until you are symptom free for at least 24 hours (except to seek medical care).
The vaccine is especially important for people who are at higher risk of developing problems from the flu, including: young children, adults ages 50 and older, adults and children who have long-term health problems or an impaired immune system and women who will be pregnant during the flu season.
At Memorial Healthcare, the safety of our patients, employees, medical staff, volunteers, and visitors is our number one priority. During flu season Memorial Healthcare implements visitor restrictions, typically beginning in November or December and lasting through January or February (this varies based on severity of the flu season). The restrictions are put in to place to protect the visitors from germs within the hospital, and to help keep germs from being brought into the hospital. The restrictions, when in effect, will limit children 12 years of age and younger from visiting, and any visitor experiencing respiratory symptoms – unless here for a service. Please watch for announcements regarding visitor restrictions in local newspapers and on our social media channels.
If you haven’t gotten your flu vaccine now is the time! Contact your primary care provider to schedule an appointment or you can receive a vaccine at a local pharmacy.