What to know about the influenza virus
Flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months.
The North Dakota Department of Health’s Division of Disease Control has provided information about flu season and ways people can protect themselves from the flu.
The information follows:
Influenza is a common respiratory disease that spread through coughs and sneezes, shared saliva, and the touching of contaminated surfaces. The presentation of influenza can be mild to deadly. We use vaccines to protect against influenza because influenza can have a major impact of the health of people, worldwide. Influenza does not cause the stomach flu, so influenza vaccine does not protect you against stomach flu.
Influenza season runs from October to May, with most cases in North Dakota occurring January to March. However, influenza can be unpredictable, so the timing, severity of the season, and even the strains circulating can vary year-to-year.
Last season we saw a co-circulation of influenza A and B viruses with the A H3N2 seasonal strain predominating–Influenza is a reportable disease in North Dakota, but only people with positive influenza lab tests are counted as cases. We saw 7,507 of these laboratory-confirmed cases, and the timing of the season was right smack dab in the middle of the “average” flu season timing for North Dakota.
Flu seasons are unpredictable, so it is too soon to tell what will happen for the 2017-18 season. Currently, we are seeing sporadic activity in North Dakota, which is normal for this time of year. Influenza numbers are updated weekly on www.ndflu.com.
Ways to protect against flu
There are several ways people can protect themselves from flu:
– Good handwashing etiquette
– Staying home when ill
– Covering coughs and sneezes
– Taking influenza antivirals if they have been prescribed for you to shorten the duration of illness.
Who should get the flu vaccine?
Getting the influenza vaccine is the best way to reduce your chances of getting the flu and passing it on to your friends and family this season.
The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older. It is especially important for those who are at highest risk for complications. These individuals include:
– children between 6 months through 4 years
– All adults 50 and older
– Pregnant women as the vaccine can protect both the mom and the baby
– People of any age who have a chronic illness or compromised immune system and
– American Indians and Alaska Natives
It is also particularly important for people who are in contact with anyone in these high-risk groups to be vaccinated. This includes:
– All health care workers, as well as
– household contacts and caregivers of anyone in these high-risk groups
– and parents of young children.
The flu shot will prevent you from getting sick and having to miss school, work, sports or other activities.
You should not only get the flu shot for yourself, but for everyone around you.
When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through the community.
Everyone should be vaccinated so they don’t pass the flu on to high risk individuals. Some people can also get infected with the flu, but not show symptoms. These people are still able to pass the infection on to others without even knowing they are contagious.
The flu vaccine is not 100 percent effective, but it can offer protection against severe complications from the flu. An older adult or someone with a chronic illness may develop less immunity from the vaccine and still get the flu. However, the vaccine may give them protection against more serious complications that can lead to hospitalization or death.
2016-2017 Coverage Rates: North Dakota (NDIIS)
Vaccine coverage estimates from the North Dakota Immunization System for last flu season showed that only about 46.9 percent of people 6 months and older in North Dakota received their flu vaccine. This is much lower than we would like to see rates.
– Everyone should be vaccinated to avoid the flu regardless of age or health status.
– Once again, Live attenuated flu vaccine, also known as the nasal spray or FluMist® is not recommended this year. Studies showed that the vaccine was not effective in preventing the flu.
– Children under 9 years old who have not received 2 doses of influenza vaccine before this season will need two doses of flu vaccine separated by 28 days.
– Flu vaccine is available free of charge for eligible children through the Vaccines for Children program. Children eligible for the vaccines for children program include those who are uninsured, underinsured, Medicaid eligible, Native American or Alaskan natives.
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends everyone be vaccinated before the end of October, if possible, however, vaccine will be available throughout the flu season and it is never too late to be vaccinated as long as flu virus is still circulating.
CDC is a federal agency that conducts and supports health promotion, prevention and preparedness activities in the United States, with the goal of improving overall public health.
– It is important to be vaccinated early because it takes two weeks for flu vaccine to be effective.
– You can receive flu vaccine at several different locations including from primary care providers or pharmacists.
For more information visit the N.D. Department of Health’s influenza website at www.ndfu.com.