Tips for Combatting Flu this Season

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Michelle Phillips

DANE COUNTY–Flu season is now in full swing, and the Public Health of Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) urges anyone six months or older to get a flu shot to help prevent the spread of the prolific virus.

Sarah Mattes, communications supervisor for PHMDC, said flu season typically begins in October and continues through spring. She said now it the best time to get the shot, but anytime throughout the season can prevent the spread of illness. “It takes about two weeks to get full protection after the flu vaccine is given, so getting the vaccine in fall is best,” she explained.

She added that it is particularly important for those in high risk groups to get the vaccine. This includes young children, pregnant women, those over 65, people with medical conditions like asthma and heart disease and medical care providers.

The virus, which can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours, can also be slowed through thoroughly cleaning areas that are frequently touched, such as door knobs and tables. In addition, you can help prevent the spread of the virus through the following:

• Wash hands often, and for at least 20 seconds, with soap and water. Use alcohol-based hand rub if soap and water aren’t available.

• Cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.

• Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth. Every time you touch your face, you have a change of introducing germs.  

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Stay home when sick and take flu antiviral drugs if prescribed by a doctor.

Mattes said flu shots are readily available throughout the county. Those with insurance can opt for receiving the vaccine at a clinic or pharmacy. “For those without health insurance, Public Health Madison and Dane County can help. Free flu shots are offered by appointment for adults without health insurance, and for children without health insurance or who have Medical Assistance/Forward card.” Mattes included.

She said most people do not need to see a doctor for medical treatment for the flu, but those in high risk groups and individuals who are very sick or concerned about the illness should seek treatment. “The CDC recommends that people at high risk for complications should get antiviral treatment as early as possible, because benefit is greatest if treatment is started within two days after illness onset,” Mattes added, and said so far this year there has been just one hospitalization for the flu.

Mattes reminded that the flu shot is safe, and though not 100 percent effective in combatting the disease, it can reduce the severity and length of the illness as well as prevent hospitalization. 

“When you get your flu shot, you’re also helping to reduce the amount of illness in our community, which helps protect the folks who can’t get a flu shot, like babies younger than 6 months old,” she concluded.

To schedule a flu shot, call your health care provider or pharmacy, some companies offer shots to employees at their workplace as well. For those without insurance, call PHMDC at 608-266-4821 to schedule an appointment.

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