By Linda Bell, M.D., DHEC State Epidemiologist
Receiving your annual flu vaccine is the single best way to protect yourselves and your loved ones from the flu this holiday season, and throughout the year. Each flu season is unique, the timing of the peak activity and how severe a season will be are hard to predict.
The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and DHEC recommend that everyone six months of age and older get a yearly flu vaccine. Even if you don’t have a regular health care provider you can still get the flu vaccine. In addition to DHEC, many local providers — including doctors’ offices, clinics, pharmacies, college health centers, schools and workplaces — now offer flu vaccines. DHEC encourages everyone to find the facility that works best for them.
Why get the vaccine?
- Flu vaccines give your body protection against several strains of the flu that circulate each season.
- Although good hand washing practices are always recommended, flu vaccines offer lasting protection against the flu for at least 6 to 8 months.
- The flu vaccine is the only protection shown to reduce hospitalization and deaths caused by the flu.
In addition to receiving an annual flu vaccine, South Carolinians are encouraged to take the following preventive measures:
- Stay away from people who are sick.
- Stay home from work and school as well as refrain from errands if you are sick. By doing so, you will help keep others from getting sick, too.
- Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue if one is handy. Throw it away immediately after use. Otherwise, use the crook of your elbow.
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when someone touches something that is covered with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
Other good habits include getting plenty of exercise and sleep, managing your stress, drinking water and eating good food to help you stay healthy in the winter and all year.
Visit DHEC’s website for more information about the flu and to find a clinic near you www.scdhec.gov/flu/.