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Editorial: Prepare for flu season

Getting vaccinated can help prevent against getting the flu, but exercising other common sense precautions also goes a long way toward further reducing your risk.
Signs for flu vaccinations are popping up at pharmacies and in stores across the region. The Carroll County Health Department will be giving out flu mist to elementary and middle school children starting Oct. 8.
At the beginning of this year, following the 2012-13 flu season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that the vaccine gave 58 percent protection against the most common and dangerous H3N2 strains for children ages 6 months to 17 years. After that, the results dropped off. The protection was only 46 percent for adults ages 18 to 49, and 50 percent for adults ages 50 to 64. For seniors age 65 and older, the vaccine proved only 8 percent effective.
According to WebMD, the percentage of the U.S. population that will get the flu ranges from 5 percent to 20 percent each year. About 200,000 people are hospitalized because of the flu each year, and between 3,000 to 49,000 die from flu-related illnesses.
Vaccinations can help reduce the risk of getting the flu, but thorough hand-washing, healthy eating, exercise and good sleep habits can also reduce your risk.
Being able to take a day or more off work and stay home when you are sick can also reduce the chance of you spreading a flu virus.
That may not help in some cases, though. According to the CDC, you can pass on the flu to someone before you even know that you are sick. Most healthy adults, the agency says, can infect others one day before they become sick and up to 5 to 7 days after they become sick. So if someone you know or have contact with gets the flu, take some additional precautions because you may already be infected.
October is the time when flu shot activity starts heating up, but the flu season spans until early the following year. January and February are peak influenza times. Better to be prepared now, and a vaccination, as well as good hygiene, can help reduce the chance you'll end up with the flu.

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