Health officials urged Idaho residents to consider getting a flu shot Thursday, announcing a Southern Idaho man had recently died from an influenza-related illness.
“This underscores the idea that influenza is in our communities, as well as how important it is for all of us to take precautions to avoid influenza infection, which can be serious for even otherwise healthy people,” said Leslie Tengelsen, influenza surveillance coordinator for the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare.
The death of the man, whom the agency said was older than 50, was Idaho’s first flu-associated death of the season. Last year, 26 people died from flu-related illnesses in Idaho.
“Now is the time to visit your health care provider, local public health district, or pharmacy to get vaccinated. Getting vaccinated today will help protect you and your family over the holidays and for the rest of the influenza season,” Tengelsen said.
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Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness that infects 5 percent to 20 percent of the population every year. Symptoms include fever, headache, fatigue, and sometimes a cough and sore throat. Most people who get influenza recover after a few days, but some people may develop serious complications and even die.
Each year, the flu contributes to an estimated 36,000 deaths in the United States, along with more than 200,000 hospitalizations.
For the week ending Dec. 10, 4.8 percent of the 15,117 specimens tested nationwide were positive for flu. Since Oct. 2, 2.5 percent of the samples have tested positive, so the number of people coming down with the flu is increasing.
People who are especially vulnerable to complications of the flu include:
▪ Pregnant women
▪ People 50 years of age and older
▪ People of any age with certain chronic medical conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, heart or lung diseases
▪ People who live in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
▪ People who live with or care for those at high risk for complications from flu.
Health authorities recommend that everyone over over six months of age gets the flu vaccine.
This season’s vaccine has been updated to match viruses that are currently circulating. This year’s supply does not include a nasal spray, which had been a favorite for some children and adults less than 50 years of age.
Recent studies by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed the nasal spray vaccines were not as effective in recent years in preventing the flu compared with the flu shot.
Options for vaccination this year include a quadrivalent vaccine, which offers protection from four strains of flu instead of the traditional vaccine that covers three strains. There also is a high-dose vaccine for people over the age of 65, and a vaccine that is injected under the skin and not into the muscle.
Along with the vaccine, Tengelsen advises people to follow these recommendations to protect themselves and others:
▪ Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing to prevent infecting other people. Avoid people who appear sick.
▪ Stay home from work or school when sick,
▪ Wash your hands frequently, especially after being out in the public. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth until you have washed your hands.
▪ Get plenty of rest, drink plenty of liquids, eat nutritious foods and take part in physical activity to stay healthy.