Peak Flu Season is Here: Protect Yourself and Your Family

We are now at the peak of influenza season. The New Jersey Department of Health is reporting that the influenza activity level is high in every county in New Jersey. Influenza, “flu,” is a family of contagious respiratory viruses. Feeling feverish, body aches, headaches, sore throat, and cough are some of the common symptoms. Although these are many of the same symptoms of the common cold, it is the severity of such symptoms and the potential complications that sets influenza apart. Serious health problems can result from the flu, such as pneumonia, regardless of age or medical problems. The flu can also worsen chronic health conditions such as asthma, and statistically the flu kills 30,000-40,000 Americans each year!  

So how can we protect ourselves and loved ones from this disease? There are several ways, but the best protection against the flu is receiving the annual flu vaccine. When more people are vaccinated, there is less disease spread through the community.  Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine. The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Even if the actual seasonal strains do differ from those in the vaccine, for the most part, partial protection can occur, and is better than no protection. Everyone six months of age and older should get a flu vaccine every season, especially those at high risk of complications from flu. These include young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart disease or lung disease, and people aged 65 years and older.  And in case you are wondering, no you cannot get the flu from the vaccine.  

You can also protect yourself, your family and others by following these steps;

  • Avoid close contact with sick people, and if you are sick avoid others to prevent spreading the illness. DO NOT visit a hospital if you have a fever or persistent cough.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or into your sleeve when coughing or sneezing and wash your hands after
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water to eliminate germs, or use alcohol based sanitizers when soap is not available
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Get plenty of sleep and eat nutritious foods.

Follow these steps to help you and your family avoid the flu this season. Keep in mind, it’s not too late to receive the flu vaccine, flu season can last through the month of May.  Also, if you have flu-like symptoms with a fever and have certain chronic medical conditions, including asthma, emphysema, heart disease, diabetes, neuromuscular disease, and kidney, liver or blood disease, make an appointment with your primary care physician.

Nazar Raoof, M.D., is board certified in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases. He is Medical Director of Infection Prevention and Epidemiology at Hackensack Meridian Health Raritan Bay Medical Center-Perth Amboy and Raritan Bay-Old Bridge. His office, ID Care, is located in Suite 208, 3 Hospital Plaza, at Raritan Bay-Old Bridge. To make an appointment with Dr. Raoof or any Raritan Bay physician, call 1-800-DOCTORS.

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