What You Need To Know For The Upcoming Flu Season

Westchester County residents should begin to make preparations this month.

Each year over 200,000 US citizens are afflicted with influenza; it’s about time for Westchester County residents to get prepared for the upcoming flu season.

While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that there is no real accuracy in the ability to predict how good or bad a flu season will be, medical professionals can assess the season with key flu indicators, such as levels of influenza-like illness (ILI), hospitalizations, and deaths. Once these indicators rise and stay at elevated levels for a consecutive number of weeks, the flu season is considered to have begun. Although the 2015-2016 flu season hasn’t officially started (according to Weekly U.S. Influenza Surveillance Report), the CDC states that the “flu outbreaks can happen as early as October and can last as late as May.” Keeping this fact in mind, it’s important to begin preparations as we edge towards November.

The flu vaccine, the most highly recommended form of protection against influenza, has already begun popping up in clinics and doctors offices around Westchester County. The vaccine for the 2015-2016 season will protect against the most common flu viruses that appear during the season, including influenza A (H1N1) viruses, influenza A (H3N2) viruses, and influenza B viruses. Doctors and medical professionals advise people to get vaccinated as early as possible, as the vaccination takes two weeks to build immunity.

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According to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP), everyone ages 6 months and older should be vaccinated against the flu. Populations with the highest priority for flu shots include people ages 50 and older, pregnant women, children ages 5 and under, and people with chronic illnesses. However, the Westchester County Health Department reports it is important to check with your licensed healthcare professional before deciding to get vaccinated, especially if you have had severe reactions to a flu vaccine, have developed Guillain-Barré syndrome within the first six weeks of flu vaccination, or have a severe allergy to chicken eggs.

With the start of the flu season imminent, here are some tips from the CDC and Westchester County Health Department to help combat the illness:

1. Vaccinate: The most recommended prevention treatment for the flu is also easily available in the tri-state area. A free flu shot clinic for Westchester County residents ages 3 and up is available Tuesday, November 10 at the Westchester County Center. To register, call (914)-995-7425 or visit www.health.ny.gov/Go2Clinic. Additionally, flu shots are available every Friday in October and November at the White Plains (995-5800) and Yonkers (231-2500) Health Department Clinics. Finally, contact your primary physician or local pharmacy to see if they are providing flu vaccinations.
2. Keep Clean: Although flu viruses are believed to spread interpersonally through sneezing, coughing, or talking, the illness can also spread when people make contact with their eyes, nose, or mouth and an object containing the flu virus. Make sure to clean communal surfaces and objects with antibacterial products. In addition, wash your hands with soap and hot water regularly to cut down on the spread of germs. Finally, cover your mouth and nose when sneezing by utilizing your elbow or a tissue. It may not prevent you from getting sick, but it will help keep others healthy.
3. A Little R&R (& E): Keeping your body and immune system in tiptop shape is beneficial to fighting off any illness, including the flu. The Westchester County Health Department advises that taking the time to “rest, exercise, and eat healthy food” can greatly prevent both the spread and contraction of the flu virus.

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