Get Your Flu Shot, Influenza Season Has Officially Started

The change of season from summer to fall often reminds us of the coming cold and flu season. Although Nebraska has not seen many cases yet, the influenza (flu) season has officially started and will continue until late next spring. Influenza is a serious disease that can cause illness, hospital stays, and even death. Symptoms of flu may include, fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, extreme tiredness, and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting. People with the virus are likely able to spread it from the day before symptoms first appear until about five days after symptoms begin. Sometimes people can spread the disease for as long as 10 days after symptoms appear.

To prevent the chances of getting the flu, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests getting the flu shot every year. It is best to get the flu shot before the illness even starts making people sick in the area because it takes a full two weeks for the vaccine to start working. It’s never too late to get a flu shot, just know that it might not start working for 14 days. Our bodies need to have time to process the vaccine and prepare for fighting the virus.

Flu viruses are always changing, which is the reason why health care providers encourage getting the flu shot every year. Most of the time a new flu season brings a different strain, or kind of virus. If you've had the flu in the past, your body has already made antibodies to fight that certain strain of the virus. If future flu viruses are similar to those you've had before, either by having the disease or getting a flu shot, those antibodies may protect you from getting sick, or even lessen your symptoms if you do get sick.

There are two groups of influenza, the A viruses and B viruses. Although both strains can be severe, the A groups are usually the reason for larger outbreaks. This year the strain that is being closely watched by health care providers is called Influenza A (H3N2).

Remember, you can help stop the spread of flu. The flu is spread from person to person. Stay home when you are ill and stay away from others who are sick when possible. Wash hands often with soap and water. When you do not have soap and water nearby, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Clean touched surfaces at home, work or school. If you think that you or a family member may have the flu, stay home and contact your health care provider.

For more information on Flu, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/flu. Or call Four Corners Health Department at (402) 362-2621 or toll free 877-337-3573. Or send email to info@fourcorners.ne.gov. Visit our website at www.fourcorners.ne.gov.