Protecting Yourself and Our Community from the Flu

October 8, 2018

While autumn brings a variety of pleasant changes, including cooler weather and colorful fall foliage, it also marks the beginning of flu season, a period that typically peaks between December and February but can last as late as May.  The influenza virus can cause mild to severe illness and, in some situations, can lead to death.  Indivduals with a greater risk of developing flu-related complications include children younger than five years old, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, women up to two weeks postpartum, residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, and those with certain medical conditions like asthma, heart disease, and blood disorders.

Colorado Plains Medical Center's mission is Making Communities Healthier.  One way that this is accomplished is to provide community residents the information they need to stay healthy and fight preventable diseases like the flu.  Given the fact that flu season is now here, this is the perfect time to review preventive measures that can be taken to prevent the spread of the flu and speed up recovery in case illness occurs.

The first and most important step is to get vaccinated.  This is the best form of protection not only for oneself but for others.  While it is still possible to contract the flu after reeving a vaccination, it is much less likely.  Also, studies have shown that flu vaccinations can make the illness milder.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends annual flu vaccination for everyone six months and older with any age-appropriate flu vaccine.  If is important to know that the nasaul spray flu vaccine is approved by the CDC for use in non-pregnant indivdiuals and those who are age two through 49.  However, there is a precaution against this option for those with certain underlying medical conditions.  CPMC officials encourage individuals to talk with their healthcare providers about the best flu vaccination method for them.

Flu vaccinations can be obtained at the Colorado Public Health Department, one of the local retail pharmacies, or at a primary care medical provider's office.  To find a primary care provider in the community, visit www.ColoradoPlainsMedicalCenter.com or call 1-800-424-DOCS.  If possible, receive a flu vaccine before flu activity begins in the area.  A good rule of thumb is to get vaccinated by the end of October.   It is important to remember that it can take apprroximately two weeks for the vaccine to become fully effective. 

In addition to the flu vaccination, there are a number of other important steps that can be done to prevent the spread of infection and to protect your family and the community during flu season as well as year-around, including:

  • Washing hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds or using a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol-based
  • Avoid touching the eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Avoid sharing food, cups, or eating utensils
  • Disinfecting the home and belongings, such as door knobs, light switches, children's toys, and play areas
  • Staying home from school or work if sick in order to prvent the spread of germs
  • Covering the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue, sleeve, or elbow (and not using bare hands)
  • Calling the local hospital or primary care provider with any questions

If symptoms such as coughing, sore throat, fever,or upper respiratory symptoms are noticed, see a healthcare provider right away.  Early dectection is especially important for young children, the elderly population, pregnant women, and people with certain chronic health issues like asthma, diabetes, heart and lung disease, and more.  When detected early, prescription antiviral drugs can often help treat the illness and shorten the time when sick by one or two days.

In addition, limit contact with others as much as possible immediately after noticing symptoms.  Stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to seek medical care.

During flu season and year-round, Colorado Plains Medical Center is available to help with healthcare needs.  Questions or concerns about this year's flu season can be addressed by calling 970-867-3391 and asking for the infection prevention department at extension 3362.

For additional information about the 2018-19 flu season, visit www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season-2018-2019.htm or contact the Colorado Public Health Department.