As local families flock to holiday parties and travel to grandma’s house, the flu is now widespread across nearly half the country and officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate there is a good chance that flu activity could peak before the end of the year.
While the number one way to protect yourself from catching the bug over the holidays is to get a flu vaccine, local physicians and the team at Grand County Public Health department are spreading the word about ways you can avoid flu germs as the virus continues to spread like wildfire.
CONSIDER THIS ….
This time last flu season, only 3 states reported widespread flu. Today 23 states are reporting widespread flu. In a recent media report, the National Foundation for Infection Diseases medical director Dr. William Schaffner says a B strain of influenza is dominant and this is “weird”.
Usually, we do not hear about B until the end of flu season, in early spring. The “B virus” can infect anyone, generally strikes children and young adults more than the elderly. Harvard University researchers say 20-30% of people carrying the flu virus do not have symptoms and they can spread flu germs to others up to six feet away!
It’s never too late to get a flu shot. It will not make you sick, it is a booster that helps your body fight off possible infection. The flu vaccine prevents death.
“Flu is a very contagious illness that we all should take very seriously this time of year, “ says Bren Ladue with the Grand County Public health department office.
“The holiday season is a hot time for flu season because people are spending more time indoors together whether it be at a social gathering or because it is just too cold to go outside. Getting the flu shot and following a few habits to avoid flu germs can keep you healthy throughout the peak of the season.”
Brene Belew-LaDue, Director of Grand County Public Health recommends everyone should get a flu shot this year. The past two flu seasons show us how unpredictable flu can be: In the 2017-2018 season, 4,650 Coloradans were hospitalized with flu, the most ever. That number dropped to 3,825 in 2018-2019, reflective of a slightly more moderate flu season.
Flu cases start to increase in October and typically peak in late December or early January before dropping off in the spring. Since it takes two weeks for the vaccine to take effect, October is the ideal time to get it but Brene says, “The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season with rare exception. Vaccination is particularly important for people who are at high risk of serious complications from influenza.
Flu vaccination has important benefits. It can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations. Flu vaccine also has been shown to be life-saving in children. In fact, a 2017 study showed that flu vaccination can significantly reduce a child’s risk of dying from flu.
Knuckle it. When using a debit card machine while shopping for holiday gifts, get into the habit of punching in your card pin with a knuckle instead of a fingertip. This way if you rub your eye or mouth with your fingertip, you’re not transferring germs.
Taking a flight to grandmas? Pack sanitizing wipes. Our nation’s airports are covered in germs over the holidays. A study by a microbiologist with travelmath.com found the plane seatbelt buckle, seat tray table and the toilet flush button among the top spots coated with germs on a plane! Your best defense, wipe down your space with a “flu-germ killing” sanitizing wipe before you sit down for take-off.
Stop Vaping! We’ve heard the stories about the hundreds of respiratory illnesses related to vaping this year. New research published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine reveals puffing on an e-cigarette also disrupts your normal immune response to viral infections, like flu.
Play it safe at the pump. Drivers must get gas for their vehicles no matter what, sick or not. Protect yourself at the pump, grab a paper towel before picking up the gas nozzle. You can also use the paper towel as a barrier when punching in your debit/credit card info.
Hang up your Superman or Supergirl cape.If you are starting to feel sick, don’t try to be a superhero and do it all. No one wants to be exposed to your germs. Stay home from work or school and don’t even run errands like to the drug store to get medicine. When you have a fever, you should always stay home at least 24 hours AFTER your fever is gone.
Take care of yourself and your family this holiday season.