By Amy Sweere, Immunization/Vaccine Coordinator
It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing colors, pumpkin spice is running rampant, and the influenza virus is getting ready to pounce. Tri-County Health Care and I want to make sure you’re equipped this season to prevent the spread of the virus.
What is influenza?
Influenza, otherwise known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness that is caused by various viruses that affect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. These viruses can cause mild to severe illness and could lead to hospitalization and even death.
How does influenza spread?
Influenza virus is transmitted through the air or by direct contact with respiratory droplets from an infected person. You can pass the flu onto others before you even know you are sick. If you have the flu, you are most contagious in the first 3-4 days after your illness begins.
What are the symptoms?
You will begin experiencing symptoms 1-4 days after you are exposed to the virus. The onset of symptoms will be SUDDEN. The primary symptoms of influenza are cough, fever, chills, fatigue, headaches, muscle/ body aches, runny/stuffy nose and sore throat. Some people, mainly children, might also experience vomiting and diarrhea. People with the flu will often experience some or all of these symptoms.
People at risk for influenza and complications from influenza:
Anyone can get influenza, even healthy people! The risk for complications, hospitalization and death is higher for people age 65 or older, young children, and people of any age who have chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease. Pregnancy also increases the risk for serious medical complications from influenza.
When should you get vaccinated?
You should receive your influenza vaccination in late fall before the flu season begins. Once administered, the vaccine takes about two weeks for the antibodies to develop in the body and protect you from influenza. If you are traveling in the late summer or early fall, you should get the vaccine as soon as it is available.
- The inactivated influenza vaccine cannot cause influenza. The injectable vaccine contains only dead virus fragments and therefore cannot cause influenza.
- Less than 1 percent of people who are vaccinated may develop flu-like symptoms such as mild fever, muscle aches. These side effects are not the same as having influenza.
- It takes about two weeks for immunity to build after being vaccinated. In that time, it is possible for people to be exposed to the virus and develop influenza before the vaccine becomes effective.
- The “flu” is often perceived as any illness that causes a fever and cold symptoms or stomach symptoms. These symptoms may be blamed on the influenza vaccination, but they are caused by a different illness entirely.
You can help prevent the spread of the flu!
The best way to prevent the spread of influenza is to receive the vaccine. Here are other methods for preventing the spread:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or your sleeve whenever you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue away after you use it, and wash your hands!
- Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand cleaner, especially if you been coughing or sneezing.
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Stay away from others who are sick! If you are sick, avoid interacting with others, especially babies, children and the elderly.
- If you get influenza, stay home from work or school for at least 24 hours after the fever has ended.
TCHC Flu Clinics
Tri-County is providing local residents the chance to receive the flu vaccine. Clinics will be held on the following dates:
- Wadena – Tuesday, Oct. 9; Wednesday, Oct. 17 – 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- Sebeka – Wednesday, Oct. 10 – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Verndale – Thursday, Oct. 11 – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Ottertail – Monday, Oct. 15 – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Bertha – Tuesday, Oct. 16 – 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Henning – Thursday, Oct. 18 – 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Pre-registration is encouraged by calling the clinic of your choice. Click here for more information.
About the Author: Amy has worked for Tri-County Health Care for almost seven years. Her roles include well child nurse, well child coordinator and vaccine coordinator. When she is not working, she helps her husband, Jeremy, on Pine Breeze Farms raising cattle and growing several types of crops. She enjoys watching her 21-year-old daughter, Riley, grow into an amazing adult. She also has a cat named Freddie Charles and a dog named Belle Rue.