Health officials offer tips for flu preventionBy Emily Etheredge Published 3:46pm Friday, January 3, 2014
With the peak of flu season in January and February, the Chilton County Health Department is offering prevention tips for those wanting to avoid the virus.
“Everyone needs to wash their hands, cover their mouths when they cough and if they are sick, stay at home to avoid spreading it around to other people,” Chilton County Health Department clinic supervisor Ludean Hicks said. “A lot of people will still try to go out in public if they think they might be sick and that spreads it around.”
Hicks said another prevention tool is teaching children to sneeze or cough into their sleeve if they do not have a tissue.
“It is important to teach the children how to not spread the virus around to other people,” Hicks said.
The health department still has flu vaccines available to anyone interested and Hicks stressed the importance of getting the vaccine.
“A lot of people think if they get the flu shot they will get sick from the vaccine,” Hicks said. “People don’t realize that the flu vaccine is a dead virus. It is not a live virus so it can’t give you the flu.”
Hicks said typically if someone gets ill after the vaccine it is the result of already being exposed to someone who has been ill with the flu.
“If you get the flu vaccine there is a two-week window where the shot does not protect from the flu,” Hicks said. “Your body has to build up the antibodies to fight off the flu so in that period of time if you come into contact with someone who might have been sick then you might catch it because the vaccine has not kicked in yet.”
Hicks said she has seen an increase within the last several days from people throughout the county coming to receive their flu vaccine.
“I don’t know if people are just worried they might get it or really don’t want to get sick but we have seen more people coming and getting the vaccine recently,” Hicks said.
Hicks said the current flu vaccine protects individuals from the H1N1 virus (or Type A) that caused a worldwide pandemic in 2009.
The virus is now considered a seasonal flu virus that can also circulate in pigs.
According to www.flu.gov, World Health Organization (WHO) announced the pandemic was over in August 2010 but H1N1 is still circulating.
The website lists several symptoms of the flu which include a fever of 100 degrees or higher, a feverish feeling, a cough or sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, headaches or body aches, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
The Alabama Department of Public Health said the influenza-like illness (ILI) activity is currently above baseline for the state, and for the week ending on Dec. 28 the geographic spread of ILI in Alabama was widespread.
Specimens throughout the state submitted to the Bureau of Clinical Laboratories for influenza testing were positive for influenza and all positive specimens were indentified as H1N1.
Hicks said if anyone thinks they might have the flu, there is a 48-to-72 hour period where Tamiflu can be administered but the virus is still contagious to other people.
“Even if you aren’t sure you have the flu, it is best to just stay at home until you start feeling better,” Hicks said.
For more information about flu vaccines, call the health department at 755-1287.