Valdosta Daily Times

January 9, 2013

Catching the Flu

Flu season hitting hard, but there are a number of ways to fight back

Stuart Taylor
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Just like the old children’s rhyme, “April Showers Bring May Flowers,” winter has arrived with the flu season in full bloom.

With one death already reported in Georgia and almost every state reporting high to moderate flu activity, there is no better time than now to consider flu prevention.

“I recommend that everyone 6 months and older get a flu vaccination,” said Courtney D. Sheeley, public information officer with the Georgia Department of Public Health, “especially people who are pregnant, have a chronic illness, work with children, or are 65 or older.”

While Sheeley recommends that people go to their local health department to receive the vaccination, there are a number of alternatives available. Many pharmacies and most clinics offer walk-in flu shots for $20. Even people who have already had the flu this season can benefit from a vaccination, explained January Smith, a GDPH district epidemiologist.

“Recovering from the flu protects your body against the particular strain you had, but each year’s vaccine is designed to protect against multiple flu strains,” said Smith.

Along with getting a vaccination, there are several other preventative measures. The flu is spread through water droplets (coughing, sneezing, etc.), so hand washing is important. Try to avoid touching high-traffic objects, such as door knobs.

Also, stop touching your face. The average person touches their face hundreds, if not thousands, of times every day; all it takes is touching the wrong shopping cart and then scratching your eye.

If a family member is sick, disinfect the house and try to limit contact with them as much as possible. Of course, the basics still apply; lack of sleep and high stress can weaken the immune system, so get plenty of rest.

If you think you’ve got the flu, it’s important that you stay home. Do not go to work or school. Common flu symptoms are a runny nose, high fever, chills, headaches, muscle aches, coughing, sore throat and fatigue; if you’re experiencing one or more of these, see your local health-care provider.

The flu season tends to peak in late February or early March, but can extend into May.

This year’s season has hit Georgia hard, health officials said, and with months left to go, it’s important that everyone takes precautions against the flu (getting a vaccination, washing your hands throughout the day) and see a doctor if they suspect they’re coming down with it.