Fighting the flu

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The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. (Designed by rawpixel.com)

Influenza has found a home in the Gem State.

Idaho is one of the worst states in the country in terms of flu vaccination coverage. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), only 39.5 percent of the population gets an annual flu shot.

The reasons why people avoid getting the flu shot are complicated, but fear appears to top the list.

“There is a lot of bad information out there in terms of getting an immunization,” said Heritage Health’s Dr. Michael Meza. “You’re not going to get the flu from getting a flu shot. There can be some minor side effects, but the benefits of getting a flu shot far outweigh temporary side effects.”

The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Meza said the best way to protect against the flu and its potentially serious complications is with a flu vaccination.

“The flu can cause serious respiratory complications, including death,” said Meza. “The flu can knock out a lot of people. The very old and the young are most vulnerable.”

That is why the CDC is recommending that everyone 6 months of age and older get a seasonal flu vaccine each year by the end of October.

“The vaccine is important for children as severe cases of influenza can result in pneumonia that can be very severe in children,” said Gina Prindle, who is Heritage Health’s Director of the School-Based Health Center. “Influenza can be a major cause of lost school days.”

However, as long as flu viruses are circulating, vaccination should continue throughout flu season ending in March.

What’s the difference between the flu and a cold?

The symptoms of flu can include fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness). Cold symptoms are usually milder than the symptoms of flu.

Scientific research shows flu vaccinations reduce flu illnesses and more serious flu outcomes that result in hospitalization or death in older people. A 2017 CDC study showed flu vaccinations reduced death, intensive care unit admissions and length of stays in the ICU, while reducing the overall amount of time spent in the hospital for people 65 and over.

Meza believes flu vaccinations are essential for everybody.

“Seniors especially need to protect themselves and help protect the larger population by reducing the risk of an influenza outbreak within the community,” he said. “Influenza strains change every year, which is why you need a flu shot every year to give you the best protection.”

To schedule a flu vaccination, call (208) 620-5250.

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