While unusual health threats of all types make headlines, the public should not fail to be proactive against a common illness that contributes to the deaths of 3,000 to 50,000 individuals every year depending on the severity of the season.
The flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The flu can cause mild to severe illness and can be deadly — especially to vulnerable people, including the very young, the elderly and those with certain chronic health conditions. Symptoms can include a sudden onset of fever, dry cough, headache, muscle aches, tiredness, sore throat, and nasal congestion or stuffiness.
With school in session, children are in close quarters with other kids, raising the risk of contracting all sorts of illnesses, flu among them.
Health officials have long touted the importance of getting vaccinated.
And while the vaccine didn't offer much protection the past two years, specialists have fine-tuned the recipe in hopes it will better counter a nasty strain this time around.
"Getting vaccinated is going to be the best way to prevent whatever happens," Dr. Daniel Jernigan, flu chief at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told the Associated Press.
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Last year's flu brought double trouble: A new strain started a second wave of illnesses just as the first was winding down, making for one of the longest influenza seasons on record. The year before that marked flu's highest death toll in recent decades.
So far, it doesn't look like the flu season is getting an early start, Jernigan said. The CDC urges people to get their flu vaccine by the end of October. Typically flu starts widely circulating in November or December, and peaks by February.
Flu vaccine is available from many local providers --including doctors' offices, clinics, pharmacies, schools and workplaces. DHEC county public health departments offer flu shots. To learn more about where to get vaccinated, visit scdhec.gov/health/flu.
While there is no guarantee of not contracting influenza even with the vaccine, the proof is in the history of results. But too many people don’t take getting a flu shot seriously.
Flu viruses are easily transmitted from person to person. With the increased exposure the new school year, football season and the coming holidays bring, it is important to receive a vaccination in a timely manner.
From the date of vaccination, it takes approximately two weeks for the antibodies that provide protection to develop in the body.
In addition to getting vaccinated, South Carolina residents are encouraged to practice good health habits each day, especially throughout flu season. DHEC offers the following tips:
• Stay away from people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick.
• Stay home from work, school and errands if you are sick. You will help keep others from getting sick.
• Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue, if one is handy. Throw it away immediately after use. Otherwise, use your upper sleeve.
• Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
• Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth.
While we count on our leaders and health experts to warn of and address the threat of the unusual, do your part against a known threat. Get a flu shot.