By the Niagara County Department of Health
It’s fall, and influenza (flu) season is here again. The flu is a respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and lungs. The virus spreads mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. The virus also may spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth. Flu can cause severe illness, hospitalization and death. Anyone can get the flu, and serious problems can occur at any age.
To protect yourself from getting the flu, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone 6 months of age and older get the flu shot every year. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body.
“Communities are encouraged to get the flu shot early in the fall, before the disease begins to spread,” said Daniel J. Stapleton, public health director.
Some people are at higher risk for flu complications. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic conditions (diabetes, asthma or heart disease), pregnant women and young children. Vaccination of people at high risk for flu complications is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness. According to the CDC, many people at higher risk from flu also seem to be at higher risk from COVID-19.
“When going to get a flu vaccine, practice everyday preventive actions such as washing your hands often, avoiding close contact with people who don’t live in your household, and covering your mouth and nose with a mask when around others,” Stapleton added.
Getting a flu vaccine is more important than ever during 2020-21 to protect yourself, your family and our community from flu. Flu and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Because some of the symptoms of flu and COVID-19 are similar, it may be hard to tell the difference between them based on symptoms alone. When you get vaccinated, you reduce your risk of getting sick with flu and possibly being hospitalized or dying from flu. This season, getting a flu vaccine has the added benefit of reducing the overall burden on the health care system and saving medical resources for care of COVID-19 patients.
“To help slow the spread of diseases such as flu and COVID-19, it is important to stay home from school or work when sick,” Stapleton said. “We all play an important role in protecting the health of our community. Stay vigilant, and continue to take every day preventive actions such as social distancing and wearing a mask appropriately.”
According to the CDC, September and October are good times to get a flu vaccine. To receive a flu shot, contact your local health care provider or pharmacy, or visit www.vaccinefinder.org. For more information about influenza (flu) 2020-21 season, visit https://www.cdc.gov/flu/season/faq-flu-season-2020-2021.htm.