The Illinois Department of Public Health announced today that it is encouraging everyone 6 months old and older to get a flu vaccine during Vaccinate Illinois Week, Dec. 7-13.
Vaccinate Illinois Week coincides with National Influenza Vaccination Week, a national observance established to highlight the importance of continuing influenza vaccination and encourage more people to be vaccinated during the holiday season and into the new year.
IDPH Director LaMar Hasbrouck said the number of people getting vaccinated drops quickly after November, which is typically the start of increased flu activity.
“If you haven’t received your flu vaccine, it’s not too late,” Hasbrouck said. “Know that you have taken the single best preventive measure to help protect yourself and your loved ones this holiday season by getting vaccinated.”
Flu activity doesn’t usually peak until January or February in the United States, and the season can last as late as May. As long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination can help provide protection, the IDPH said.
Flu symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, but it is not typically associated with respiratory flu.
People with flu symptoms should stay home 24 hours after the fever is gone (without the use of a fever-reducing medicine). Antiviral drugs can make illness milder, shorten the length of illness and may prevent serious complications.
Complications of the flu can include bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, dehydration and worsening of chronic medical conditions. Pregnant women, young children, people 65 years and older, and anyone with underlying health conditions like asthma, diabetes, or a weakened immune system are at greater risk of complications from infection.
A person cannot get the flu from the flu vaccine, the IDPH said. The flu shot contains killed viruses and the nasal spray has weakened viruses that cannot cause illness.
If a person gets flu-like symptoms soon after being vaccinated, it can mean the person may have been exposed to the flu before getting vaccinated, or during the two-week period it takes the body to build up protection after vaccination, the IDPH said. It might also mean the person was is sick with another illness that causes symptoms similar to the flu.
Vaccination is important for health care workers and others who live with or care for high-risk people to keep from spreading flu to high risk people, the IDPH said. Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated.
Flu shots and the nasal spray are available in many doctor’s offices, local health departments, health clinics, pharmacies and other health care providers. For additional information about flu vaccinations and availability the area, contact the Madison County Health Department at (618) 692-8954, the St. Clair County Health Department at (618) 233-6170 or Illinois Health Connect at 800-526-4372.
To reduce the spread of flu, it is also important to practice the 3 C’s –
- Clean – properly wash your hands frequently
- Cover – cover your cough and sneeze
- Contain – contain your germs by staying home if you are sick
More information about influenza can be found at http://www.idph.state.il.us/flu/index.htm.