Flu season is here and has hit Oregon County and the surrounding area hard.
The Oregon County Health Department and Center for Disease Control, urge everyone to take precautions this flu season.
Sheila Russell, Administrator at the Oregon County Health Department said, "It is here and, at the Oregon County Health Department, we gave out fewer flu shots than usual," Russell said. She added, most of the time in our area, people are diagnosed with only symptoms of the flu because it is costly to swab and test for the actual flu. "We always have yearly deaths from flu and pneumonia but we are seeing it earlier this year," Russell said.
Oregon County's early flu outbreak mirrors the ￼rest of the state. Missouri has reported 'widespread activity, which is defined as "Increased influenza-like illness and/or institutional outbreaks in at least half of the regions and recent (within the past three weeks) lab-confirmed influenza in the state."
Influenze, commonly called the "flu," is a contagious viral infection that affects the respiratory system -- your nose, throat and lungs. Symptoms of the flu can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and di- arrhea. Influenza is a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Every flu season is different, and influenza infec- tion can affect people differently.
The CDC reports that the 2012-2013 influenza season started early and activity remains high in the United States. This may continue for some time. With that in mind, there are steps you can take to protect yourself and your family from the flu.
First and foremost, it is not too late to get a flu shot. Although the Oregon County Health Department no longer has regular adult flu vaccinations available, it has several doses for children and more is on the way.
"We aren't the only ones who give it (flu shots), and there is still some (vaccine) left in the county. I've talked to several doctors' offices that still have the adult vaccinations available," Russell said. She advises that people need to call and check with their doctor's office to make sure the vaccination is still available be- fore going in.
Drug store chains, including Walgreens in West Plains, are also still giving flu vaccinations.
The youngest and the oldest are always the most susceptible. "It is debilitating for weeks and then it has long lasting side ef- fects as well. If they are feeling the onset symptoms of the flu, call a physician within the first 48 hours and tell them you are starting to run a low grade fever and they can give you the Tamiflu, which will shorten the flu. It is very important and vital to get it within the first 48 hours," Russell said.
Russell encourages those who get the flu to stay at home and rest. "You are very contagious when you have a fever. That is what keeps the flu going around. Because we live in a society where we don't get a lot of sick time, it's hard to take off but it's vital when you have something that is spreading so quickly to stay home and rest to risk spreading it and for a person's own health," Russell added.
"It seems like so many of the kids are getting it and we are getting reports from the school nurses of significant amounts of absentees, with kids missing due to flu like symptoms. We are also seeing the flu in a lot of teenagers this year as well," Russell said. "It comes in waves, it's here and it will be for a while."
Flu vaccinations for children are free at the Oregon County Health Department and no ap- pointment is necessary. The health department in Alton is open Monday through Friday, and Thayer is open Tuesday and Wednesday.
Everyday preventive actions, which are not sub- stitutes for vaccination, that people can take to help slow the spread of germs that cause the flu include:
Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
If you or your child gets sick with a respiratory illness, like flu, limit contact with others as much as possible to help prevent spreading illness. Stay home (or keep your child home) for at least 24 hours after fever is gone except to seek medical care or for other necessities. Fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
If an outbreak of flu or another illness occurs, follow public health advice. This may include information about how to increase distance between people and other measures.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. This will block the spread of droplets from your mouth or nose that could contain germs.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.