Major holidays are just around the corner, and with them, more chances to become exposed to (and then sick with) the flu. To help ensure you don’t get the flu this season, the Department of Health in Marion County is encouraging you to get your seasonal flu shot if you haven’t had the chance to get one yet.
Getting your seasonal flu shot is one of the best ways to protect yourself during flu season. The flu vaccine is safe, and it’s recommended for everyone six months and older, including pregnant women. The department recommends residents get the quadrivalent flu shot to get the best protection from the flu. Available at the health department and other locations, the quadrivalent version provides protection from two strains of type A influenza and two strains of type B influenza. Influenza vaccines are designed to protect against the three or four strains experts believe will be most common during the season.
Marion is currently experiencing “mild” flu activity, similar to most parts of the state. However, significant numbers are still being affected; 170 individuals sought treatment for flu or flu-like symptoms at local emergency rooms over the most recent week according to local data. Of those affected, 69 were between the ages of 25-49, 40 were ages 5-24, and 29 were between ages 0 to 4. Both influenza type A and type B have been confirmed in testing locally.
People at higher risk for flu-related complications include children less than 5, adults over the age of 65, people with compromised immune systems, pregnant women and people who have existing medical conditions, such as asthma and obesity. In addition to protecting yourself from getting the flu, getting vaccinated if you are healthy helps to protect our most vulnerable populations.
Contact your doctor’s office or local pharmacy to check on flu shot availability. Children and uninsured or under-insured residents can get one for free at the Department of Health in Marion County’s main office in Ocala (1801 SE 32nd Ave.) Monday through Friday.
What to do if you or a loved one may be sick with the flu
While many may be used to just resting and managing symptoms at home when they suspect they have the flu, that’s not the best course to follow.
“It’s important to see your health care provider if you become sick with flu-like symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, body aches and sore throat,” said Florida Department of Health in Marion County Administrator Mark Lander. “The flu can have serious consequences even for someone who has been very healthy previously.”
Health care providers can prescribe antiviral treatment if appropriate. Treatment is most effective when started within 48 hours, so calling as soon as you become ill is important, especially if you or your loved one is at a higher risk for complications.
Preventing the spread is also key. It’s important to stay home from work and keep children home from school or daycare when sick to help prevent the flu from passing to others. The department recommends that sick people stay home or keep sick children home until fever-free for at least 24 hours (without the use of fever-reducing medication). It is also essential to practice good hygiene by properly and frequently washing your hands. Make it a habit to clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces in your home, school or office.
Visit FluFreeFlorida.com for more information on how you can be a part of #FluFreeFlorida and www.floridahealth.gov/floridaflu for more information on influenza and influenza-like illness in Florida.