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Tomorrow is the first day of September. For many of us, September is a time for getting back into routines and looking forward to the cooler weather just around the corner. Unfortunately, that also means that flu season is upon us, as we’ve seen a few cases of the flu already.
At Wilson Medical Center, our mission is “Making Communities Healthier.” That means we want to ensure that we do everything we can to prevent the spread of this serious illness and help you stay healthy for the busy months ahead. So, as you get settled into the new fall season this month, make flu prevention part of your routine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly influenza vaccination for everyone 6 months of age and older as the first and best form of prevention against the flu. For the safety of our patients and our staff, all Wilson Medical Center employees must receive their flu vaccine by the end of October, which is the recommendation by the CDC.
Studies show that, not only can the flu vaccine reduce your risk of illness by about 50 to 60 percent, but it can also make your illness milder, should you contract the flu, resulting in fewer doctor visits, less time missed from your daily routines and fewer flu-related hospitalizations. And by preventing the spread of the virus, you’re helping others in your community stay healthy, like older people, pregnant women, young children and those with health conditions who are especially vulnerable to serious complications from this illness.
Getting a flu shot is a minor interruption in your schedule but one whose benefits far outweigh the temporary inconvenience. To get vaccinated, you can visit the health department, a walk-in clinic or pharmacy, or your primary care physician. If you don’t have a primary care physician, visit us at wilsonmedical.com or call us at 800-424-DOCS (3627), and we’ll get you connected to the right care.
The Next Steps
While getting vaccinated is the first and most important line of defense against contracting and spreading of the flu virus, prevention doesn’t stop there. There are some additional measures you can take to help prevent the flu for you and others.
• Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60 percent alcohol-based
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
• Avoid sharing food, cups or eating utensils
• Disinfect your home and belongings, such as door knobs, light switches, children’s toys and play areas
• Stay home from school or work if you are sick to prevent the spread of germs
• Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue, your sleeve or elbow, and not your bare hands
• Get a flu shot
• Call your local hospital or your primary care doctor with any questions
At Wilson Medical Center, we’ll be doing our part, too, to help prevent the flu from spreading, including:
• Providing masks to all visitors and patients experiencing flu-like symptoms;
• Setting up stations throughout the facility stocked with tissues and alcohol-based hand sanitizers;
• Encouraging all patients, staff and visitors who have not done so already to get their flu shot;
• Providing educational materials to all visitors about everyday preventative actions; and
• If needed, limiting visitation hours to help limit the spread of infection.
Should you contract the flu, early detection is key. Prescription antiviral drugs can help reduce the time you’re sick if the virus is caught early enough. And early detection is especially important for those who are susceptible to serious complications. If you or a loved one begins to notice symptoms including coughing, sore throat, fever or upper respiratory symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor right away.
You should also limit contact with others as much as possible immediately after noticing symptoms. Stay home (or keep your child home) for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to seek medical care or for other necessities.
At Wilson Medical Center, we truly care about your health and well-being. If you have any questions or concerns about this year’s flu season, we can help. Just call 800.424.DOCS (3627).
For additional information about influenza, visit www.cdc.org/flu or contact the Wilson County Health Department.
Laura Lowe is chief nursing officer at Wilson Medical Center.