With December upon us, it’s more than a nip in the air that you might notice. People clearing their scratchy throats or turning away with a hacking cough: the telltale signs the holiday flu season are here. The flu, or influenza is that seemingly unavoidable winter illness that makes our noses, throats and lungs miserable. But there are steps you can take to stay well. The experts at NurseWise, a national multilingual nurse triage and health education provider, want to share five flu facts to help keep you and your family healthier this year, just in time for National Influenza Vaccination Week:
1. A little bit goes a long, long way. Your first instinct may be to move away from people blowing their noses and coughing. But did you know that the flu can be spread from a distance of about 6 feet? Influenza can be spread through both direct contact with bodily fluids from sneezing or coughing as well as through touching things with the flu virus on them, like door knobs. Your best bet isn’t avoiding people; it’s getting your flu shot.
2. A fever is just the beginning. Most of us have been told that the flu is contagious as long as we have a fever. The truth is the contagious period last much, much longer than that! Adults are infectious one day before symptoms appear and stay infectious for up to a week after getting sick. Kids can pass it on for even longer. Flu vaccinations, on the other hand, last all season long.
3. There isn’t just “a flu shot.” You often hear medical professionals telling you to get your flu shot. What you may not know is traditional flu vaccines actually can protect against more than one type of influenza virus. Some flu vaccines offered protect against three or four different flu viruses. And not all flu vaccinations are given through a shot, with nasal mists providing more options for those who hate needles. But whether providing a defense against two flu bugs or four, one vaccine dose is all you need to stay safe.
4. Never too late to vaccinate: While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends people get their flu vaccinations in the fall, flu shots can protect you all flu season long, which generally runs through April. In fact, flu season doesn’t peak until January or February. Make a New Year’s resolution to protect yourself and your family by vaccinating against the flu.
5. The flu can kill. People tend to think the flu is no big deal, but it can and does kills thousands of Americans every year. According to CDC estimates, more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized with complications from the flu each year, and 25 percent of those patients will die. So don’t take risks with your life or your loved ones—get your flu vaccination today!
For more information about influenza, flu vaccinations and other useful flu information, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/nivw/.