Tower Health encourages everyone from 6 months to get a flu shot
Seasonal flu (flu) is emerging in our community and Tower Health encourages everyone 6 months and older to get a flu shot. Community members are encouraged to make an appointment with their primary care physician (PCP) or advanced practice provider (APP). The vaccine is also readily available at local pharmacies.
It is important to get the flu shot every year because the virus changes every year and the vaccine is updated to provide the best level of protection. This year, the CDC recommends getting the annual flu shot by the end of October, but it’s not too late to get the shot. In fact, our typical flu season lasts until May, so there is still plenty of time to get the vaccine. It takes about two weeks after you receive the vaccine for your body to make the antibodies that protect against the virus.
Getting the flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and your family from the flu. The vaccine can also help reduce the risk of serious complications from the flu in vulnerable people, including babies, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems. It is important to remember that you may be able to pass the flu on to someone else before you know you are sick. Healthy adults may be able to infect other people for a full day before their symptoms develop and for up to five to seven days after becoming ill.
Vaccines are important and save lives. Last year, due to social distancing, mask wear, good hand hygiene and the increased number of people vaccinated against the flu, our health care system saw zero cases of seasonal flu. It’s unclear what the flu season will look like this year, but we are concerned that people are at risk of both the flu and COVID-19.
The flu is a serious illness, especially during pregnancy. The vaccine is safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women and protects both mother and baby. If the mother receives the vaccine during pregnancy, several studies show that the baby will be protected against the flu for several months after birth, a time when newborns are not old enough to receive the vaccine directly.
To help prevent the spread of the flu, Tower Health recommends that everyone wash their hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer or soap and water; avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth; practice respiratory hygiene by covering your sneeze or cough when you are not masked; stay home when you are not feeling well; frequently disinfect common areas with high demand (phones, computers, tablets). Additionally, continuing to wear a mask and practicing social distancing can reduce the spread of all respiratory illnesses.
Influenza and COVID-19 are both contagious respiratory illnesses caused by different viruses. The signs and symptoms of the flu and COVID-19 can be similar, including:
• Fever over 100 ° F
• Shortness of breath
• Fatigue (very tired)
• Sore throat
• Muscle pain
COVID-19 can also cause non-flu symptoms, including loss of taste or smell. If you have any of these symptoms, contact your primary care provider.
For more information on flu, COVID-19, and cold symptoms, visit towerhealth.org/flu.
Dr Debra Powell is Head of the Division of Infectious Diseases and Medical Director of Infection Prevention at Reading Hospital.