I work as a health educator in the Community Health Improvement Department at the University of Vermont Medical Center. Educating people to make healthy choices and to take measures to prevent illness is what we do; however, it took me a few years to realize that by not getting the flu vaccine, I was putting not only myself at risk of illness, but others, too. I kept thinking, “I am healthy, I won’t get the flu,” but the truth is, even healthy people can get the flu — and spread it to others.
Working at the UVM Medical Center, I am surrounded by thousands of employees and patients. Many patients’ immune systems are already compromised. I realized it just wasn’t about me anymore. I get my flu vaccine every year now, and am grateful that it reduces my risk of getting the flu. When more people get vaccinated against the flu, less flu can spread through the community.
According to the CDC, “Over a period of 31 seasons between 1976 and 2007, estimates of flu-associated deaths in the United States range from a low of about 3,000 to a high of about 49,000 people.” It feels good knowing I am doing my part to help reduce those numbers.
You can help prevent the spread of the flu by getting the vaccine, and taking other preventative measures such as:
- Covering your cough
- Washing your hands often and well
- Keeping yourself healthy with rest, exercise, and eating healthy foods
- Drinking plenty of fluids
- Staying home if you get sick
- Avoiding close contact with sick people
The CDC indicates that the seasonal flu season in the United States can begin as early as October and last as late as May. The time to act is now. Your body takes about 2 weeks after getting the vaccine to develop protective antibodies against infection. For the 2014-2015 flu season, there are many vaccine options available depending on your age and if you have allergies.
Vaccination is recommended if you are:
- Aged 6 months and older
- At high risk of complications from the flu, or if you care for or are in contact with someone who is at high risk
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding mothers
- All adults 50 years of age and older
- Residents of nursing homes and other long term care facilities.
- Healthcare workers
- People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions
- People who have immunosuppression
- Anyone with a condition that can compromise respiratory function
- People at high risk for severe complications from influenza
Flu symptoms include:
- A 100oF or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
- A cough and/or sore throat
- A runny or stuffy nose
- Headaches and/or body aches
- Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. Your health care provider can give you a test within the first few days of your illness to determine whether or not you have the flu.
Ready to get the flu vaccine or learn more?
UVM Medical Center Primary Care, Internal Medicine, and Family Practice sites will be offering flu vaccine clinics. Please contact your UVM Medical Center provider for more information. Flu vaccines are also available through many local pharmacies, agencies like the Visiting Nurse Association, and through this Vermont Department of Health flu vaccine clinic finder. In addition, the Vermont Department of Health has other valuable information on their website about the flu and flu prevention. The Centers for Disease Control website also has excellent up-to-date information for the 2014-2015 flu season.
For more information contact the Frymoyer Community Health Resource Center at 802-847-8821. We hope you have a happy and healthy season!
Kristine Buck is a Health Educator at the Frymoyer Community Health Resource Center at the University of Vermont Medical Center.