By Joyce Gerber MA, BSN, RN,C
Flu season is quickly approaching and itís time for you to decide whether or not to receive a vaccination against the flu. The agency encourages all employees to receive the flu vaccine (unless contraindicated) as this is the best way to protect you, your consumers, and your family against the flu. Vaccination of healthcare workers and others in close contact with individuals at high risk for severe influenza illness also reduces transmission of influenza and its subsequent complications. For the 2006-2007 flu season, the agency is once again offering free flu shots from a healthcare provider in your region. In addition to this option flu shots are available from a variety of sources such as county agencies Ė frequently without any cost.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death. Every year in the United States, on average: 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications, and; about 36,000 people die from flu. Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes.
Flu viruses spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing of people with influenza. Sometimes people may become infected by touching something with flu viruses on it and then touching their mouth or nose. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 days after becoming sick. That means that you may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.
October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, but getting vaccinated in December or even later can still be beneficial since most influenza activity occurs in January or later in most years. Though it varies, flu season can last as late as May.
Some people should not be vaccinated without first consulting a physician. These people include those who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs, those who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past, children less than 6 months old, and anyone who has a moderate or severe illness with a fever at the time of getting a vaccine. These people should wait to get vaccinated until their symptoms lessen.
About two weeks after vaccination, antibodies develop that protect against influenza virus infection. Flu vaccines will not protect against flu-like illnesses caused by non-influenza viruses. It may be important to remember that there is a more subtle benefit that occurs if enough people in the community receive the vaccine, a concept called herd immunity. This concept states that if enough people in a community are immunized, it is more difficult for the infection to be passed to people who are not immunized. The immunized people protect the un-immunized by lowering the prevalence of infection in the community.
Note: The flu vaccination with be offered to every SBH employee without charge. More information to follow!