We are in the middle of the flu season, making this a good time to issue a reminder to get a flu shot. The state Department of Health has launched an awareness campaign called “Stopping the Flu Starts with YOU” to encourage Pennsylvanians to protect themselves and their loved ones against seasonal flu by getting vaccinated annually and taking other preventative measures.
This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends getting an injection of the vaccine over the nasal mist. It is especially important that at-risk populations like the very young, the very old, pregnant women, and those with chronic medical conditions get vaccinated against the flu every year.
An annual flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. There are two important reasons for doing this. First, flu viruses are constantly changing, and vaccines may be updated yearly to protect against the viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming flu season. Second, a person’s immune system protection from the vaccine decreases over time.
The Department of Health has reported that cases of the influenza virus, or flu, are now widespread in the Commonwealth, with nearly 7,600 cases since October (245 of them in Luzerne County). To date, 13 flu-related deaths have been reported, with all of the victims being over age 50.
Flu seasons are unpredictable and can be severe. In the U.S., it is estimated that an average of 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu, and hundreds of thousands are hospitalized from seasonal flu-related complications.
In addition to getting vaccinated, the department asks all Pennsylvanians to consider practicing the following preventive measures:
- Wash hands often with soap and warm water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, and throw any used tissues in the trash.
- Keep hands away from face, and don’t touch eyes, nose or mouth.
- Disinfect frequently used surfaces like doorknobs, light switches, TV remotes or countertops.
- Avoid contact with individuals who may have the flu. When sick, stay home until at least 24 hours after your fever goes away on its own without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
By following this simple advice, you and your family can hopefully stay healthy for the remainder of the flu season.
Representative Tarah Toohil
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Contact: Rep. Toohil’s Office