Flu season expected to continue through April

GREENE COUNTY — Greene County Public Health officials have seen flu hospitalizations rise over the past month, despite the overall numbers being lower than they were last flu season.

“Greene County Public Health would like to remind those who are unvaccinated that getting the flu vaccine helps protect those that cannot get the vaccine and those that are unable to make antibodies to the flu, like persons who are having cancer treatments and others,” officials said in a Feb. 25 release.

The current flu season in Greene County is anticipated to continue through April, but the vaccine is reportedly proving to be a good match for the circulating flu viruses this season.

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Flu is different from a cold, usually coming on suddenly. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. People who have the flu often feel some or all of the following symptoms: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue, sometimes diarrhea and vomiting.

Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by tiny droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it, and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. People may be able to pass the flu to someone else before they know they are sick, as well as while they are sick. People with flu are most contagious in the first three to four days after their illness begins.

Some otherwise healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. The time from when a person is exposed and infected with flu to when symptoms begin is about two days but can range from one to four days. Some people, especially young children and people with weakened immune systems, might be able to infect others with flu viruses for an even longer time.

Anyone can get the flu, even healthy people. Some people are at high risk of developing serious flu-related complications. This includes people 65 years and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and children younger than five years.

The first and most important step in preventing flu is to get a flu vaccine each year, officials stress. The flu vaccine, which is covered by most insurance plans, has been shown to reduce flu-related illnesses and the risk of serious flu complications. GCPH recommends additional preventive actions like staying away from people who are sick and frequent handwashing. While it is very difficult to distinguish flu from other viral or bacterial respiratory illnesses based on symptoms alone, tests are available to diagnose the flu.

Residents who are sick with the flu can also take precautions to stop the spread of germs. They should stay home for at least 24 hours after fever is gone (without the use of fever-reducing medicine) except to get medical care or other necessities. Other tips include covering nose and mouth while coughing or sneezing; throwing away tissues in the trash; washing hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitizer; avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth; disinfecting surfaces and objects that may be contaminated.

For questions about this information, contact GCPH at 937-374-5600 or visit www.gcph.info.