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These Basic Flu Facts Can Help You Protect Yourself And Others

No matter how healthy you are, you can be affected by the flu.

If you have not gotten your yearly flu vaccine, now is a good time to do so because it can take up to two weeks for your body to develop a protective response and it is the best way to prevent the flu. Protecting yourself against the flu also helps to protect your loved ones and others you come into contact with.

Here are some tips to help protect you and your loved ones this flu season.

  1. The flu and how is it spread

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The flu can cause mild to severe, even deadly illness — especially in vulnerable people. Symptoms can include fever, dry cough, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat, and nasal congestion or stuffiness. 

Seasonal flu is usually spread from person to person. People who have the flu may spread it to others from about one day before they develop symptoms for up to seven days after.  Flu viruses are spread when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk spread respiratory droplets. Others become infected when these droplets are inhaled or enter the nose or mouth by touching with hands that have been soiled by the respiratory droplets.

2. Some people at higher risk

Anyone, including healthy people, can get the flu, but certain people are at greater risk for serious complications if they get the flu. This includes older people (especially people 65 years of age and older), young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease). While it is important for everyone to receive their yearly flu vaccine, it is especially important for people in these high-risk groups to do so.

3. Ways you can help prevent the flu

Remember, the best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get your flu vaccine each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and DHEC recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older get a yearly flu vaccine.

In addition, South Carolinians are encouraged to take the following preventive measures:

  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home from work, school and errands if you are sick to avoid getting others sick.
  • 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 to cover yourself.
  • 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 one of those areas.

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.

  1. Places where you can get the flu vaccine

Remember, it’s important to get the flu vaccine not only to protect yourself, but also your loved ones from the seasonal flu. 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. We encourage everyone to find the facility that works best for them.

To find the DHEC seasonal flu clinic nearest you, click here.

For more information: www.scdhec.gov/flu.

Here Are Some Actions You Can Take To Help Protect You Against The Flu

No doubt, you’ve heard the reports of widespread flu activity. It’s important to know that there are some things you can do to help protect yourself.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking three actions:

1) Get a flu vaccine.

DHEC and the CDC recommend that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccine, which can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu. Getting vaccinated annually is the No. 1 way to combat this contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization — and even death.

It is especially important for high-risk persons to be vaccinated to reduce the risk of severe illness. People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.

2) Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs.

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick, limit contact with others.
  • If you are sick with flu symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs such as the flu.

3) Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.

If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can be used to treat your illness. Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. These drugs are different from antibiotics; they are prescription medicines (pills, liquid or an inhaled powder) and are not available over-the-counter.

Visit CDC’s website to find out more about the flu and the three actions it recommends to fight it.