Tag Archives: Influenza

CDC’s ‘Take 3 Actions’ Flu Message

If you haven’t gotten a flu vaccine this season, it’s not too late. Getting vaccinated annually is the No. 1 way to combat this contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization — and even death. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends taking three actions to protect against the flu:

1) Take time to get a flu vaccine.

DHEC and the CDC recommends 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.

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.

Vaccination also is important for health care workers and those who live with or care for high-risk people to keep from spreading flu to them.

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 to keep from infecting them.
  • 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.

Those working with older people or the chronically ill should get a flu shot

The flu is a serious health threat to vulnerable populations such as people 65 and older and those living with chronic medical conditions. People in those groups account for the majority of flu hospitalizations and deaths in the United States each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

People living with and caring for high-risk persons should take every precaution to protect themselves and those they are caring for during influenza season. Vaccination is the most effective way to prevent the flu, and DHEC and the CDC recommends that everyone 6 months and older get vaccinated annually.

Health care workers are recommended, and sometimes required by an employer, to be vaccinated against the flu. The reason is quite simple: Staff in doctors’ offices, hospitals and long-term care facilities have direct or indirect contact with patients.  Health care staff are at risk not only of becoming infected with influenza at work, but also of spreading it to patients and their coworkers.

Vaccination of long-term health care staff is especially important because most of their patients are elderly or have chronic health issues and are at higher risk of flu complications.  Residents and staff in long-term care facilities often have regular close contact.  According to the CDC, studies show that during a confirmed influenza outbreak in a long-term care facility, up to one in three residents and one in four staff develop an influenza-like illness. Click here for more information on why it is important for health care personnel in long-term care to be vaccinated against the flu.

Visit the CDC’s website to see how to improve vaccination coverage among long-term health care personnel. Visitors at the website also can access an influenza toolkit for long-term care employers.

It’s not too late to get your flu vaccine!  Even if you don’t have a regular health care provider the flu vaccine is available in many settings. In addition to DHEC clinics, 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.

Be sure to take preventative measures to avoid the flu

Make no mistake: The single best way to protect against the flu is to get a flu vaccine each year. DHEC and the Centers for Disease Control and prevention recommend that everyone 6 months and older, especially people at high risk for developing serious complications from flu, get vaccinated each season.

That said, it is also important to take other preventive measures to combat the flu as well.

DHEC encourages South Carolinians to:

  • Stay away from people who are sick.
  • Stay home from work and school, as well as refrain from errands, if you are sick to 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 to keep germs off of your hands and surfaces that you touch.
  • Wash your hands often and thoroughly to prevent the flu and many other diseases.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs easily enter the body and cause infection when someone touches something that is covered with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Please consider other habits to stay healthy year round, including getting plenty of exercise and sleep, managing your stress, drinking water and eating nutritious foods.

Visit DHEC’s website for more information about the flu and to find a clinic near you www.scdhec.gov/flu. You can also view the video below to learn more.

Five key questions — and their answers — about the flu

By Dr. Teresa Foo, MD, MPH
DHEC Medical Consultant
Immunizations and Acute Disease Epi Divisions

The flu can affect anyone, even healthy people. That is important to remember as we move further into the 2016-17 flu season. 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.

The following Q & A provides you with the information to help protect you and your loved ones from the flu this season.

  1. What is 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.

  1. Who is at risk?

While anyone, including healthy people, can get the flu, 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.

  1. How can you 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. Will the “nasal spray” be available this flu season?

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted that the intranasal live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), also known as the “nasal spray,” should not be used this season after data showed it did not provide good protection against the H1N1 influenza virus during the 2013-14 and 2015-16 flu seasons. As a result, DHEC will not be offering nasal spray in health departments or school vaccine clinics this year.

The good news is that flu shots have still proved to be effective. Data found the injectable vaccine to be very effective in preventing flu when well matched with circulating flu strains.

  1. Where can I get the flu vaccine?

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.

Flu shots remain effective against flu; be sure to get yours

By Teresa Foo, MD, MPH
Medical Consultant
Divisions of Immunization and Acute Disease Epidemiology

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says nasal spray influenza vaccine should not be used during the 2016-17 season, there should be a sufficient amount of injectable vaccine available.  South Carolinians are encouraged to protect themselves with the flu shot.

Changed recommendations for nasal spray

The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted that the intranasal live attenuated influenza vaccine (LAIV), also known as the “nasal spray,” should not be used this season after data showed it did not provide good protection against the H1N1 influenza virus during the 2013-14 and 2015-16 flu seasons. The CDC conducts studies each season to gauge the effectiveness of the flu vaccine

The good news is that flu shots have still proved to be effective. Data found the injectable vaccine to be very effective in preventing flu when well matched with circulating flu strains. The CDC and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone 6 months and older.

It is important to get vaccinated

The flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu; it prevents flu illnesses, doctor’s visits, missed work and school due to flu, and flu-related hospitalizations and deaths.

The nasal spray flu vaccine has been a popular choice for vaccinating children. Data from recent seasons suggests the nasal spray accounted for about one-third of all flu vaccines given to children. The flu is not like the common cold; it is more dangerous for children, especially for very young children or those with chronic health problems like asthma or diabetes. It is important for children 6 months and older to be vaccinated with the flu shot.  Visit the CDC website for tips on how to make shots less stressful for you and your child.

Likewise, older children, adolescents and adults are recommended to get the flu vaccine each year.  Some people are more likely to get serious complications from the flu that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes death.  This includes adults 50 years and older, pregnant women and anyone with chronic medical conditions like asthma, heart or lung disease and diabetes.  Vaccination is also important for health care workers and other people who live with or care for high risk people to keep from spreading flu to them.

Find a provider near you

DHEC once again will be providing school-located vaccine clinics for flu vaccine this year; the flu shot will be the only type of flu vaccine available in school clinics. School-located vaccine clinics remain a convenient way for parents to ensure their child gets the flu vaccine.

Flu vaccines are also available from health care providers, local DHEC health departments, and local pharmacies.  Those age 12 and older can receive the flu vaccine without a prescription at a pharmacy that offers flu vaccine.

Flu vaccines offered at DHEC Health Department clinics are available by appointment. Call 1-800-868-0404 to make an appointment or go to http://www.dhec.sc.gov/Health/Vaccinations/FluVaccines/FindSeasonalFluClinics/ to find the location closest to you. To find a non-DHEC flu vaccine provider, go to http://flushot.healthmap.org/ to search for the location closest to you.