October 31, 2013

CDC: Vaccine Offers Best Protection Against the Flu

By Angel MedFlight Contributor

Flu season is here and it's time to start thinking about getting a flu shot.  Promoting a healthy workplace is extremely important to us here at Angel MedFlight Worldwide Air Ambulance and recently employees were given the opportunity to get their flu shot. Consider that a brief needle stick in the arm can help protect against a virus that hospitalizes over 226,000 people in the U.S. each year. Thousands will die from the flu and its complications.  

Rebecca Van Pelt, R.N., is Angel MedFlight's Chief Administrative Officer. "We offered a flu shot clinic to our employees this year after many of them were affected by the flu virus last year, " said Van Pelt. "As our company grows, our office space is getting cozier. Plus, our flight crews being in and out of airports, ambulances, and hospitals - they are particularly at risk of being exposed to the flu virus in their work."

What is the flu? Influenza is a contagious disease that spreads around the U.S. every winter. The flu season usually starts in October and runs into May. The disease is caused by the influenza virus and can be spread by coughing, sneezing and close contact. Most experts believe you can get the flu when a person who has the disease coughs, sneezes, or talks and droplets containing their germs land in your mouth or nose. You can also get the flu by touching a surface or object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your mouth, eyes or nose.

While anyone can get the flu, the risk of getting flu is highest among children. The symptoms come on suddenly and can last several days. Symptoms of the flu include fever/chills, sore throat, muscle aches, fatigue, cough, headache and runny or stuffy nose.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says the best way to protect yourself from the flu is the flu vaccine. This season's vaccine is now available at various locations including health clinics and drugstores. One of the easiest ways to find who has the vaccine is by going to the Flu Vaccine Finder on the Flu.gov website. There you just type in your zip code and the finder will generate a map with red markers on it showing where the vaccine is available. There are also detailed listings on the page that include location addresses, phone numbers, hours,  and what types of vaccines are available at specific locations.

Who should get a flu shot? The CDC recommends everyone six months of age and older should get vaccinated against the flu. It's also recommended to get the vaccine as soon as it's available in your area.

There are two types of flu vaccines available this season. The traditional vaccines, called the trivalent vaccines, protect against three flu viruses: H1NA, H3N2 and an influenza B virus. This season there are also vaccines being produced to protect against four flu viruses. These are called quadrivalent vaccines and they protect against  the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine plus an additional B virus.
Remember that it takes about two weeks for protection to develop after getting the flu shot and protection lasts several months to a year.

Van Pelt says that being in HR, she gets an interesting look at how the flu season can impact employees. " We hope that providing easy access to the flu vaccine for our employees this year will help lessen the negative impact."

Angel MedFlight, a leader in worldwide medical flights, and the CDC remind you that flu vaccine is the best protection from flu and its complications.  Talk to your healthcare provider and consider getting a flu shot today.

(Information for this article came from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.)

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