From Our Team
Surviving Flu Season
From the office to the gym, it seems like I’m constantly running into folks who are recovering from the flu or hearing about folks who are out due to illness. My perceptions appear to correlate with the data. According to the El Paso Department of Public Health, 2,902 flu cases have been reported from October through the third week in January, and there are likely many other cases that do not get reported.
“Flu” refers to illnesses caused by different influenza viruses. Symptoms of flu include fever, coughing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, chills and fatigue. Each year 5-20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu. Most people recover, but certain people are at risk for serious complications that may lead to hospitalization, and possible death. On average, about 20,000 people in the U.S. die annually due the flu. In El Paso County, four deaths are attributed to the influenza virus this flu season. These individuals had serious underlying medical conditions.
While we’ve survived several months of the current flu season, it’s not over yet. February is typically the peak month for the flu. And, the season can extend until May. From a prevention standpoint, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continue to encourage everyone older than six months of age to get the seasonal flu vaccine. Vaccines continue to be the best tool we have to prevent influenza. This is especially true for people who are at higher risk of serious complications, including: pregnant women, adults 65 years of age and older, and children under five.
“Though we have had some spot shortages of flu vaccine in retail outlets, there is still plenty of vaccine available in the community. We encourage people to check around for availability and best price,” said Bruce Parsons, Interim Health Director for the City of El Paso Department of Public Health.
Some may be concerned that the flu vaccine can make you sick. Flu vaccines have a strong safety track record. While it is possible to have a reaction to the vaccine, hundreds of millions have safely received the seasonal flu vaccine over the years.
The flu vaccine can protect you; but it can also protect others. Parsons added, “The more people who get vaccinated; the less likely an unvaccinated person will encounter the virus. So get vaccinated for yourself and others around you.”
It is easy to get a flu shot. The vaccine is administered in two forms: the “flu shot” and the nasal spray. You can get the vaccine from your primary healthcare provider and many pharmacies in our community. The Department of Public Health provides flu vaccines at Immunization Health Centers located throughout the city. The cost of the vaccine is $10.00 for children six months to 18 years of age who qualify, and $35.00 for the general public. Call (915) 771-5822 or 2-1-1 to get information on flu vaccine providers.
Beyond the vaccine, public health professionals also recommend the four C’s in order to prevent further illness in our community:
CLEAN-Wash your hands often. Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner.
COVER-Cover your cough. Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Don’t have a tissue? The crook of your elbow will do.
CONTAIN-Contain germs by steering clear of others who are sick. If you do get sick, stay at home until you’re well again so you don’t spread more germs.
CALL-Call or see your doctor if you or your child has a fever greater than 100 degrees.
Following these steps won’t guarantee that you won’t get the flu. Nonetheless, they are the best preventive actions that we can take to protect ourselves and our community.
For information on El Paso area locations where you can receive the flu vaccine: www.immunizeelpaso.org/
General information on the flu and the vaccine: www.flu.gov
The City of El Paso Public Health Department’s webpage: www.elpasotexas.gov/health
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