Avoid getting or giving the flu during the holidays

Published 9:10 pm Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Something nobody wants to receive during the holidays is a case of influenza, says Decatur County Health Department County Nurse Manager Sherry Hutchins, who adds that it isn’t too late to get a flu shot.

“During this time of year, as people are traveling to visit relatives and friends and getting together at events to celebrate the season, germs have an opportunity to hitchhike from person-to-person,” Hutchins said. “But the last thing anybody wants to get—or give for that matter—is the flu. That’s why Public Health is reminding people … to get a flu shot if you haven’t done so. It’s not too late to get protected.”

Influenza is a serious contagious disease, she said.

Email newsletter signup

Each year in the United States, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized with influenza. Flu and flu complications on average kill roughly 36,000 Americans annually.

Southwest Health District epidemiologist Jacqueline Jenkins said no flu activity has been reported in the district’s 14 counties within the past two weeks.

“Our most recent national data shows a low level of flu activity so far,” she said. “One state reported local influenza activity, Puerto Rico and 22 states reported sporadic activity, and the District of Columbia and 27 states reported no influenza activity.”

But it is early in the season, Hutchins noted.

“February is traditionally the peak season for flu,” she said. “We will continue to urge people to get vaccinated throughout December and January.”

Hutchins said it takes about two weeks after receiving the shot before it becomes fully effective.

“But if you catch the flu during that two-week window, your case will be milder than it would be without a vaccination,” she said. Flu shots are recommended for:

• Children aged six months up to 19 years old

• Pregnant women

• Adults 50 and older

• People with chronic medical conditions

• Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities

• People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu

“If you have questions about whether you or your loved one should get a flu shot, check with your health care provider,” Hutchins said. “Information about seasonal flu is also available at Southwest Health District’s web site, www.southwestgeorgiapublichealth.org, or from the Decatur County Health Department.”