Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association: No flu for you
October 20, 2013
Steamboat Springs — You've heard it before, but it is so easy to forget: Get your flu shot!
This time of year, you can't avoid the messages on street banners, print and radio advertisements, flyers, Facebook and Twitter posts. It's everywhere. Why all of the reminders?
It is best to get vaccinated before flu begins to spread. It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine to provide full protection, so the sooner you get vaccinated, the more likely it is that you will be fully protected once flu begins to circulate in our community.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone ages 6 months and older get immunized each year against the flu. It is especially important to get the flu vaccine if you are pregnant, 65 or older or have an underlying health condition. Young children and people in contact with high-risk groups also are urged to get immunized.
Think you know all there is to know about the flu? Test your flu IQ by answering these questions:
Q. The flu vaccine can give you the flu.
False: The viruses in the flu vaccine are either killed (flu shot) or weakened (nasal spray vaccine), which means they cannot cause infection.
Q. The stomach flu and influenza are the same thing
False: Stomach flu is an intestinal disease, and the flu is respiratory.
Q. Getting a flu vaccine in December or later is not too late.
True: CDC recommends people get vaccinated as soon as it is available, but getting it later in the winter is better than not getting it at all. Flu season usually peaks in February but can last all the way into May.
Q. People should be vaccinated against the flu every year.
True: New flu vaccines are made each year and your immunity wears off over time.
Q. Washing your hands is the best thing you can do to protect against the flu.
False: CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the most important step in protecting against the flu. But covering your cough and washing your hand frequently are the best ways to stop the spread of germs.
Q. The flu is typically spread through coughs and sneezes.
True: So cover your cough and wash your hands. Most importantly, stay home from work or school if you are ill.
Q. The flu is not a serious illness.
False: Flu is a serious, contagious disease that causes illness, hospitalizations and deaths every year.
Q. The flu vaccine is available as a shot or nasal spray.
True: Flu vaccine is available as a nasal spray and is an option for healthy people ages 2 to 49 who are not pregnant.
Q. You can spread the flu to others before you have symptoms.
True: Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. That means you might be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick.
Q. There is no treatment for the flu.
False: There are prescription antiviral drugs that can be used to treat the flu. These drugs are not a substitute for getting a flu vaccine.
The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association and most primary care providers have flu vaccines available. Drop-in vaccination clinics for all ages are from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursdays at the Steamboat Springs VNA office and from 4 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through November at Steamboat Springs High School. For more information, visit http://www.nwcovna.org/flu.php or call the VNA flu hotline at 970-871-7624.
Suzi Mariano is the director of communications for the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association.