Along with the cooler weather, the 2013-2014 flu season has officially arrived and will last through March.
According to White County Medical Center Infection Control Nurse Mary Lou Adams, RN, the flu was more prevalent last year than it has been since the 2009 H1N1 pandemic; however, most cases were not as severe as those in the past.
“Because flu strains vary from year to year, healthcare professionals do not have a scientific way to gauge how mild or severe this flu season will be, or when it will really hit,” she said. “The best way to protect ourselves and our family members is to get a flu shot.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), everyone ages 6 months and older should receive a flu vaccine, especially people with asthma, diabetes and chronic lung disease, pregnant women and people ages 65 and older, as well as people in the same household as those individuals. The CDC continues to recommend the flu vaccine for women in any stage of pregnancy, as well as nursing mothers; expectant mothers should seek counsel from their OB/GYN before receiving any vaccine.
“With a 70 to 80 percent effectiveness rate, the absolute best way to avoid the flu is getting the flu vaccine,” Adams said. “Be vigilant about washing your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds; alcohol-based hand sanitizer serves as a good backup, too. Also, cough or sneeze into a tissue and immediately throw it into the trash, then, wash your hands. Good hand-washing is critical in preventing the spread of the flu.”
The flu is spread primarily when an infected person sneezes or coughs and the droplets move through the air and are inhaled by people within three to six feet. The virus can live on surfaces for several hours, which transfers easily to hands and can make you sick if you touch your eyes, mouth or nose.
- a fever of more than 100 degrees that does not react to regular ibuprofen
- shortness of breath
- extreme tiredness
- general achiness and joint pain
- nausea, and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea
- headache, sore throat and a stuffy or runny nose
People at higher risk for contracting the flu:
- children and young adults from 6 months to 24 years of age
- healthcare workers
- emergency medical services workers
People who are at risk for having greater complications:
- pregnant women
- those who have chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease
- those who take medications that may suppress their immune system, such as those with HIV or undergoing chemotherapy treatment
- persons age 65 and over
For more information about the 2013-2014 flu season, please log onto www.wcmc.org and click the flu.gov icon on the White County Medical Center homepage.
ABOUT WHITE COUNTY MEDICAL CENTER
As the leading healthcare provider in a six-county area, White County Medical Center associates strive to improve the quality of health and well being for the communities it serves through compassionate care. White County Medical Center is the largest employer in a six-county area with more than 1,750 associates. The facility has a combined total of 438 licensed beds and a medical staff of 150 physicians that specialize in various areas of healthcare.
In addition to the North and South Campuses, White County Medical Center includes Family Practice Associates, Orthopaedic and Spine Center of Central Arkansas, Searcy Medical Center and Searcy Medical Center – West Clinic, Westside Family Medical Clinic, WCMC Cardiology Clinic and White County Oncology.