Peak flu season to hit state in next few weeks
Based on weekly reports from the Minnesota Department of Health, the state could be seeing peak flu season in a few weeks.
It's still not too late to get a flu shot, said Myra Haldorson, RN, infection preventionist/employee health coordinator at St. Joseph's Area Health Services.
Haldorson has been monitoring flu activity in the area and the state and so far there hasn't been widespread activity.
"We're seeing a typical season in that normally we don't see influenza until mid-to-late February," she said. "Last year we peaked early so I think people are wondering where the flu is this year."
Everyone is encouraged to get a flu vaccination this year and Haldorson stressed that it's not too late.
The Minnesota Department of Health is recommending that everyone older than 6 months of age should get flu vaccine this year. By getting a flu vaccination, the risk of spreading influenza is reduced.
Those most at risk for becoming seriously ill from the flu include people age 65 and older, young children, pregnant women and people with certain health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart disease, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory disease that can be prevented by immunization. It is not the same as the "stomach flu." Flu is caused by a virus that attacks the nose, throat and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and at times can lead to death.
"There are so many strains out there that it makes sense that if you get a vaccine each year you will be more protected," Haldorson said.
This year's flu vaccination includes the H1N1 strain, she said.
Influenza symptoms come on quickly in the form of fever, dry cough, sore throat, headache, extreme tiredness, stuffed-up nose and body aches. These symptoms can be severe and put you in bed for several days.
A cold generally stays up in the head while the flu brings body aches, fever and extreme fatigue. A person with a cold will usually keep up his or her normal activities, while someone with the flu will often feel too sick to do so.
In order to prevent the spread of the flu this season, MDH recommends the following in addition to being vaccinated:
n Avoid being exposed to others who are sick with a flu-like illness.
n Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, or cough or sneeze into your sleeve.
n Clean your hands often - with soap and water, or a hand sanitizer.
n Take special care to protect infants. Try not to expose them to large crowds when flu is in your community, and avoid close contact between the baby and family members who may be sick.
n Do not share drinking cups and straws.
n Clean commonly touched surfaces often (door knobs, refrigerator handles, phones, water faucets).
n Do not smoke around children.
If you do have symptoms of the flu, the most important advice is to stay home, according to MDH. Also, drink plenty of fluids and get plenty of rest.
Flu vaccine is still readily available, Haldorson said. Call your health care provider to schedule an appointment to get the vaccine.
"The goal is to get everyone vaccinated," Haldorson said.