More information about the flu can be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/. For a flu vaccination, visit your health care provider or the drop-in flu clinic offered by the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association every Thursday in January from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Flu vaccinations at VNA are $16 for adults and $14 for children. For locations, visit www.nwcovna.org.
Steamboat Springs Flu season has arrived in the Yampa Valley. This, of course, is not a surprise. Here at Yampa Valley Medical Center, we have been planning for the 2011-12 flu season since September.
Also known as influenza, the flu is a highly contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. A flu experience can range from mild discomfort to severe illness and even death.
When it comes to the flu, the importance of prevention and vaccination cannot be overstated.
Steve Hilley, RN and quality programs coordinator at YVMC, said the hospital and local health care providers take a proactive approach to flu season. Following recommendations issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the hospital has instituted new policies to protect patients, their families and hospital staff.
“We have implemented a Mandatory Influenza Vaccination Policy at YVMC,” Hilley said. “This means that all employees are offered the influenza vaccine. However, for medical or other reasons some of the staff may not chose to receive the vaccine.
“We want the community to know that in order to protect our patients, staff and visitors, employees who have chosen not to get the vaccine are required to wear a mask. This is a precaution to help prevent the possible spread of the influenza virus throughout the facility,” Hilley said.
The flu virus is spread by coughing, sneezing or nasal secretions. According to the CDC, the most effective means of prevention is a yearly flu vaccine for everyone ages 6 months and older.
Some medical conditions may prevent employees or other individuals from receiving the vaccine. For example, individuals who have a severe allergy to chicken eggs or who have had a severe reaction to an influenza vaccination in the past should not be vaccinated without first consulting a physician.
Also, people with a history of Guillain-Barré Syndrome should consult a physician before taking the vaccine.
Anyone can get the flu, but the CDC notes that rates of infections are highest among children. As many of us know, a bout with the flu can range from mild discomfort to a severe illness. In some cases, the flu can be deadly.
Other than children, those who are at high risk for serious complications of the flu include individuals with certain health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, as well as people who are 65 and older. Getting vaccinated is especially important for individuals in these high-risk categories.
Along with getting a flu vaccine, the CDC recommends several preventive actions to stop the spread of germs:
■ Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze
■ Washing your hands frequently with soap and water
■ Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth
■ Avoiding close contact with individuals who are sick.
“We are at the beginning of the flu season,” said Dr. Mark McCaulley, an internal medicine physician with Yampa Valley Medical Associates. “We have confirmed at least two cases in Steamboat Springs. The good news is that it is early in the season and there is still time to get vaccinated.”
To get vaccinated, contact your health care provider or the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.
“If you do get the flu, antiviral drugs may help” McCaulley said. “Contact your health care provider to see if you should be treated.”
Rosie Kern is the communications specialist at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org