The holiday season is here, and for most people it’s a very welcome time of year.
Another season has also arrived that is not so welcome and has the ability to ruin most peoples’ holidays: the flu season.
Officials are already saying the flu season is hitting hard in some parts of the country and people – particularly those most at risk – are being cautioned to get a flu shot if they haven’t already.
December 2-8 was designated as National Influenza Vaccination Week to highlight the importance of getting the flu vaccination.
The South Central and Southeast regions of the country have reported the majority of cases and are reporting flu cases above the normal baselines, according to the Centers for Disease and Prevention.
But, in Region 5, which includes Illinois, flu cases are also above the norm.
Every year, an average of 226,000 hospitalizations and 3,000 to 49,000 flu-related deaths occur, according to the CDC. The flu can be treated with antiviral drugs.
If you haven’t had your flu shot yet and think it is too late, it’s not, according the CDC. The flu season doesn’t peak until February and sometimes continues until May. The agency says it’s never too late to get the vaccination.
The flu vaccine is recommended annually for anyone 6 months old and older, according to the CDC.
Flu shots can be obtained through physicians, pharmacies, quick-care clinics and other locations.
Those most at high-risk for developing serious flu-related complications include:
- Pregnant women
- Children younger than 5, but especially children younger than 2 years old
- People 65 years of age and older
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease)
The flu vaccine is also important to the following groups:
- People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu, such as health care workers, household contacts of persons at high risk for complications from the flu and out of home caregivers of children less than 6 months of age (these children are too young to be vaccinated).
Influenza, better known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by flu viruses. It can cause mild to severe illness, and at times can lead to death, according to the CDC. The flu is different from a cold. The flu usually comes on suddenly.
People who have the flu often feel some or all of these symptoms:
- Fever, or feeling feverish/chills
- Sore throat
- Runny or stuffy nose
- Muscle or body aches
- Fatigue (tiredness)
- Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention