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Avoid illness over the holidays

Is there anything worse than being sick over the holidays? Douglas County Public Health is reminding everyone that now is a great time of the year to get your influenza vaccination. It takes about two weeks for your body to respond to the vaccine...

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Is there anything worse than being sick over the holidays?

Douglas County Public Health is reminding everyone that now is a great time of the year to get your influenza vaccination.  It takes about two weeks for your body to respond to the vaccine, allowing you to reach full immunity by the holidays.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), influenza activity is currently low in the U.S. as a whole, but is increasing in some parts of the country. Minnesota is currently listed as regional, which is one step below a widespread outbreak.
Doreen Hanson of Douglas County Public Health explained that this means there is quite a bit of flu going around the state.
This season, influenza A (H3N2) viruses have been reported most frequently and have been detected in almost all states, according to the CDC.
During past seasons when H3N2 viruses have predominated, high overall and age-specific hospitalization rates and more mortality have been observed, especially among older people, very young 

children and person with certain chronic medical conditions, compared with seasons during which influenza A (H1N1) or influenza B viruses have predominated.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health Weekly Influenza and Respiratory Illness Activity Report for the week ending November 29, there were a total of 87 flu hospitalizations in Minnesota this season, with a median patient age of 58. This is considered a low number by the CDC.

ABOUT INFLUENZA

Influenza is a contagious respiratory infection that affects the nose, throat and lungs – something quite different to what many refer to as the stomach flu.
Symptoms include high fever of 101 to 103 degrees or more combined with body ache, fatigue, respiratory symptoms, including cough, runny nose and sore throat and sometimes nausea.
Anyone with those symptoms should seek medical attention. Anti-viral medications, especially if given within the first 24 to 48 hours, will make people feel better and shorten the duration of symptoms.
“The CDC is feeling that it’s going to be a harder year for the flu,” Hanson said. “If they’re saying it’s going to be rough, then it is going to be rough.”

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ABOUT THE VACCINE

The CDC notified health providers that a variant of H3N2 isn’t fully protected by the vaccine, but added that people shouldn’t be deterred from getting a flu shot simply because the vaccine isn’t a perfect match for one influenza strain.
Each year, vaccine makers produce vaccines based on experts’ best prediction of the three or four strains most likely to emerge. Flu viruses mutate quickly, leading to an imperfect match between the vaccine and the viruses circulating.
Even if it is an imperfect match, the vaccine still might protect against some of the worst effects of influenza, which can leave people bedridden for a few weeks and, in rare cases, cause death.
Vaccines are 50 to 70 percent effective among adults when well matched to circulating viruses, according to the CDC.
Hanson commented on reasons people have for not getting vaccinated, including never having the flu before and fear of getting sick from the shot.
“I just tell them, ‘Well, once you’ve had [the flu] you’ll want the vaccine,’” she said. “Also, it’s a killed virus, so you can’t get sick from it.” Because of the two weeks it takes for the vaccine to fully work, people who get sick after getting a shot were probably already getting sick.
While washing hands and pushing fluids are vital ways to stay healthy, Hanson has one more piece of advice: “Get vaccinated. It’s the best protection we have!”

WHO SHOULD GET THE FLU VACCINE?

Influenza vaccinations are recommended for all
Minnesotans oldern than 6 months but are especially
important for young children ages 6 months to 5 years, seniors, people with chronic medical conditions, pregnant women, people living with or caring for those at high risk, and health care workers.

Related Topics: HEALTH
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