Studies show that otherwise healthy but unvaccinated daycare and school-age children are prime targets for influenza, or what is more commonly called “the flu.”
Once infected, children shed more of the influenza viruses than do infected adults, and they do so for longer periods of time. This fact explains why they are so often at the center of an outbreak in the family or the community.
When children become infected, unvaccinated household members quickly follow suit, leading to missed school days, missed work, doctor visits and sometimes hospital visits.
A staggering five to 20 percent of the U.S. population gets the flu. More than 200,000 people end up hospitalized due to flu complications and about 36,000 people die each year from influenza.
Since one-fifth of the U.S. population attends or works in schools, schools are a primary source of infection and possibly the primary source of infection.
These are some simple steps to take to keep yourselves, your loved ones and those around you as healthy as possible during flu season:
- Get vaccinated. Every year a new vaccine is developed to combat that year’s particular influenza virus, so annual immunization is necessary.
- Wash hands. Frequent handwashing keeps lots of germs out of our bodies, including the influenza virus. If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer.
- Stay home if you don’t feel well. Should you become infected, keep the germs from spreading by staying home and taking care of yourself.
- Use tissues to block a sneeze or cough. If no tissues are available, use your sleeve. This helps prevent the spread of germs. Don’t forget to wash your hands afterward, even if using a tissue.
School populations are eight times denser than offices and 10 times denser than homes, making them prime breeding grounds for the spread of influenza.
Preschoolers can be contagious before they’re showing symptoms of infection and they’re contagious longer than adults. Because this age groups gets so many upper respiratory infections a year, it’s hard to tell if the infection is influenza, so, with your health care provider’s supervision, error on the side of caution and vaccinate those six months of age and older.
Influenza vaccines are seasonally available at all medical clinics and Public Health in Winneshiek County. Make an appointment at Winneshiek Medical Center for the influenza vaccine. Call 563-382-2911.