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MADISON—Before things get hectic this holiday season, and before we gather with family and friends, the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) is encouraging people to get a flu shot.
“Certainly no one wants to be sick during the holidays, and they don’t want to be responsible for spreading an illness, either,” said Dr. Henry Anderson, State Health Officer.
The 2013 flu season has begun, and while it is still early in the season, cases have been reported in most regions of Wisconsin and most age categories have been affected. To date there have been fewer than 10 reported hospitalizations, but hospitalizations are expected to increase as the season progresses. Influenza A and B strains are circulating in Wisconsin, and all circulating strains are included in this year’s vaccine. Last year’s flu season peaked in late December, but each year the occurrence of the peak is unpredictable.
Holiday gatherings can bring together people who are especially vulnerable to the flu virus, like the very old, the very young, and pregnant women. People who travel and college students who will return home for the holidays can be exposed to viruses from other parts of the state, the country, or the world, and can pick up and spread the illness from wherever they’ve been.
“The good news is that if people who haven’t been vaccinated get a flu shot right now, they will be protected by Thanksgiving, and that protection will continue beyond the holidays,” Anderson stated.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone aged six months and older get a flu shot. Health care providers, pharmacies, local public health departments and tribal health clinics can provide the shots. College students can seek vaccinations from their campus health services department. To find a vaccination center near you, visit: www.flu.gov. In addition to the injectable vaccine, which is available to people aged six months and older, the vaccine is also available as a nasal mist for people aged two to 49 years old.
Also, with people gathering for the holidays, it’s important that everyone follow some basic, common-sense guidelines to avoid illness, including:
• Wash hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
• Stay home when sick.
• Cover a cough or sneeze with the upper sleeve. If using a tissue, throw it away after one use.
• Use your own drinking cups and straws.
• Avoid exposure to people who are sick with flu-like symptoms.
• Eat nutritious meals, get plenty of rest, and don’t smoke.
• Frequently clean commonly touched surfaces like door knobs, telephones, faucets, refrigerator door handles, etc.
For more information on influenza, visit: http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/communicable/influenza/.