GAINESVILLE, Ga. — Flu season is here and Northeast Georgia Medical Center (NGMC), in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reminds you to take action to protect yourself and your family now.
The flu is a serious contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death in some cases. You can help protect yourself and those around with the following steps:
The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step. Vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits and missed work or school time, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and deaths. Everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine, but it is especially important for certain high risk groups including children; pregnant women; people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease; and people age 65 and older. While children younger than six months are too young to receive the vaccination, it is strongly encouraged that their caregivers be vaccinated instead to help protect the children.
Take Preventive Actions to Stop the Spread of Germs
There are several things you can do to help prevent the spread of germs. First, and most importantly, try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, the CDC recommends you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medicine), except to get medical care or other necessities. While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Also, remember to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and wash your hands often with soap and water. Alcohol-based hand sanitizer can be used as well. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as much as possible; germs spread this way. Be sure to clean and disinfect surfaces and objects often that may be contaminated with germs.
Seek Medical Advice
Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea while others may have respiratory symptoms without a fever. If your symptoms become severe or you are at higher risk due to age or medical condition, please seek medical advice soon. Your physician can prescribe antiviral drugs (different than antibiotics), which are not available over-the-counter. These drugs can make the illness milder, shorten the time you are sick and may also prevent more serious flu complications. In fact, for people with high risk factors, treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a mild illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.
Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within two days of getting sick, but starting them later may still be helpful. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking this drug.
“Northeast Georgia Medical Center takes these preventive measures very seriously, especially when it comes to ensuring the safety of our patients and community,” says Sandy Bozarth, NGMC’s Infection Prevention and Control manager. “Not only is it important for us to educate our community about prevention, we also take extra steps to educate our staff as well. One of the best ways we can help protect our community is by offering free flu vaccines for all employees.”
For information regarding flu shot availability in your community, please visit http://www.phdistrict2.org/ or call the District Office at 770-535-5743.
For more detailed information about the flu and how to prevent it, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/disease.