Fall is time for people to get flu shots

Residents are strongly encouraged to receive this year’s influenza (“flu”) vaccine as soon as possible in order to build up antibodies to the influenza viruses.

County Executive Mark C. Poloncarz and Erie County Commissioner of Health, Dr. Gale Burstein, led the way recently by receiving their annual flu vaccines.

“Why get a flu vaccine? No one likes to feel sick. Most people who are infected with influenza can develop high fevers, chills, body aches, fatigue, cough, difficulty breathing, loss of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting that usually lasts 10 days,” stated Burstein. “You will not only lessen your chance of getting the flu, you will also limit the likelihood of passing the virus onto family members or colleagues who have a chronic illness or to a newborn infant, for whom influenza can be a very serious health concern.”

What exactly is the flu? Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses, which can cause mild to severe illness.

It is especially important for certain people at high risk for serious flu complications to get vaccinated. Those people include:

¯ Individuals with chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes, morbid obesity, cardiovascular disease, or chronic lung disease

¯ Young children, especially those under 2 years of age

¯ Women who are pregnant or have recently given birth

¯ People 65 years and older

¯ Individuals residing in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities

¯ People who are immunosuppressed, where their body’s immune system or ability to fight off infection may be impaired

¯ People who live with, or care for others who are at high risk of developing serious complications

¯ Health care providers.

Why get a flu vaccine? Influenza can lead to severe respiratory illness requiring hospitalization and in some cases can be fatal. The flu season can last as late as May. Flu vaccines protect against three or four flu virus strains (depending upon the type of vaccine you receive). The flu vaccine is readily available in Erie County physicians’ offices, pharmacies and other community sites.

“Fall is a great time to protect your children against the flu. Indoor group settings, like classrooms, facilitate virus spread,” said Burstein. “Children are more likely to be infected with the flu than adults. They are contagious and likely to pass the virus on to others in the family.”

To stay healthy, frequent hand-washing is crucial so that illness is not spread from one person to another. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, especially after using the toilet or changing diapers.

Always wash your hands before eating, preparing and handling food. When sneezing or coughing, be sure to turn away from others and use a tissue to cover your mouth or nose. Sneeze into the crook or your arm, rather than into your hands.