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Sue Kunferman column: Vaccination best way to prevent spread of flu

5:55 PM, Jan. 25, 2013  |  Comments
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It's impossible not to hear about this year's horrible influenza outbreak. While it's been all over the news, many people are still not getting the message. GET VACCINATED!

The vaccine is not perfect and we know that improvements in vaccine technology for the flu vaccine are needed. But the fact that getting vaccinated reduces influenza-related doctor visits by 60 percent is powerful. On top of that, this year's vaccine matches 98 percent of the Influenza A viruses that are circulating and the vast majority (85 percent) of flu cases are Influenza A.

On top of helping to prevent medical visits if you do become infected with influenza, the vaccine has other benefits, like reducing the severity of your illness, preventing the need for antibiotics to treat complications from the flu, reducing lost time at work and preventing hospitalization and death. I'd say it's worth it.

While difficult to predict, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it's likely that this influenza activity will continue for several more weeks. A flu shot is the best way to prevent the flu and complications that can lead to hospitalization and even death, yet fewer than half of us have received a vaccination this flu season. Anyone 6 months of age and older who has not gotten vaccinated yet this season should get vaccinated. A vaccine locator available at http://flushot.healthmap.org may be helpful.

Remember, symptoms of influenza include: fever, chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, body aches, poor appetite and lack of energy. What if you think you have the real influenza? Most people should take care of themselves by staying home. It's important to keep well hydrated and treat the symptoms with over-the-counter analgesics. However, if you are extremely ill or at high risk of developing complications (young children, those older than 65, pregnant women and people with underlying medical conditions), antiviral medication can help. Contact your medical provider.

For more information and other ways to prevent the flu, go to www.cdc.gov/flu.

Sue Kunferman is director/health officer for the Wood County Health Department. To reach her, call 715-421-8911.

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