“At best, the flu makes you miserable. At worst, it can be deadly,” said Indiana State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “The best ways to protect yourself and your family are to get vaccinated and follow good health practices.”
Influenza, or the “flu,” is a viral infection of the respiratory tract. Influenza is spread by respiratory droplets from infected people or contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. Infection can occur when influenza viruses contact the eyes, mouth or nose, and possibly through inhaling droplets from a sneeze or cough. Sometimes people may become infected by touching surfaces or objects contaminated with influenza viruses and then touching their eyes, mouth or nose.
Symptoms of the flu include:
- Fever of 100 degrees Fahrenheit or greater
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
Flu season occurs annually, typically starting around October and continuing through May. Seasonal flu viruses can vary from year to year, so it is important to get a flu vaccine every year to protect against them. It is estimated that only 44.7 percent of Hoosiers received a flu vaccine during the 2014-15 season and almost half of all Hoosier children ages 6 months to 17 years did not receive a flu vaccine. The flu vaccine is the best protection against the flu and may be offered by many doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, urgent care centers, pharmacies, college health centers and employers.
Although anyone can get the flu, some people are at higher risk of complications that could lead to hospitalization and even death. High-risk individuals include pregnant women, young children (especially those younger than 6 months who cannot be vaccinated), those with chronic illnesses and/or compromised immune systems and adults age 65 and older. Healthcare personnel are also encouraged to get a flu vaccine to protect themselves and their patients during the flu season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 5 percent to 20 percent of people nationwide contract the flu each year, and more than 200,000 people nationwide are hospitalized for illnesses related to influenza infection.
Some additional steps people can take to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory diseases include:
- Clean – properly wash your hands frequently.
- Cover – cover your cough and sneeze.
- Contain – contain your germs by staying home (or keep children home) if sick.
The CDC and the Indiana State Department of Health recommend annual influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months and older. Contact your healthcare provider regarding the availability of influenza vaccination. To find a location that provides flu shots in your community, check with your local health department or visit the HealthMap Vaccine Finder at http://vaccine.healthmap.org/.
To learn more about the flu, visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s flu page at http://www.in.gov/isdh/25462.htm. For important health and safety updates, follow the State Health Department on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/isdh1.