Delaware’s 2018-2019 flu season saw more than 6,000 confirmed flu cases. Nationwide, more than 37 million people had the flu, with an estimated 36,400 to 61,200 flu-related deaths across the country. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting the annual flu vaccine. Bayhealth Occupational Health Medical Director Parvathi Somasundaram, MD, encourages everyone over the age of six months old to get the 2019 influenza vaccine.
Primary care doctors and pediatricians should have vaccines available. Influenza, also called the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The flu virus can infect the nose, throat and even the lungs. Effects of the flu range from mild to severe illness and sometimes death. “The vaccine saves lives. By getting the flu shot, you’re protecting yourself, family and community members from the flu,” Dr. Soma said. This is known as herd immunity. “Think of getting the flu vaccine as your way of paying it forward and playing your part in protecting the health of the community.” Children and people with weakened immune systems are most likely to get the flu.
The flu virus is spread by tiny droplets when people with the flu cough, sneeze or talk; these droplets then come in contact with another person nearby. A person can also get the flu if they touch a surface or object that has been contaminated with the flu virus, and then touch their mouth, nose or eyes. Symptoms of the flu include fever, fatigue, headache, body aches, and a runny nose. Most flu cases are mild enough that neither medical care nor antiviral medications are needed. If you do need to see your primary care physician and are confirmed as having the flu, your doctor may prescribe an antiviral medication. Along with receiving the vaccination, community members are encouraged to do the following:
· Avoid contact with sick people
· Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing
· Wash your hands with soap and water
· Avoid touching your face
Bayhealth leads by example by offering free flu vaccinations to all Bayhealth employees, contractors, volunteers, and medical staff. The Annual Flu Program allows Bayhealth to protect patients, coworkers and family members from the flu. Staff members who forgo the vaccination are required to wear a face mask in patient-care areas until the state declares the flu season over in 2020.
While some community members may be concerned about the effectiveness of the flu shot, Dr. Soma assures people that the vaccination is still a person’s best bet in preventing the flu. It’s also important to remember that the annual flu vaccine changes each year, which is why it’s an annual immunization. “The vaccination is modified in an effort to target the flu strains that are expected to circulate,” Dr. Soma said.
To get your flu shot, schedule an appointment with your primary care doctor. To find a Bayhealth doctor, visit Bayhealth.org/Find-A-Doctor or call 1-866-BAY-DOCS (229-3627).
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