It’s the time of year to gather with family and friends for festive celebrations, and no one wants to see a loved one sidelined by a serious illness. Influenza and other viruses are easily spread in places where people are gathered in close contact and sharing food, drinks and gifts. The Tennessee Department of Health is reminding Tennesseans to take action to help prevent the spread of flu this holiday season.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Tennessee Department of Health recommend annual flu vaccination for everyone over the age of six months. This year’s vaccine can protect against three strains of flu, including the H1N1 flu virus and two new seasonal strains also expected to circulate this flu season. Flu vaccine is widely available throughout Tennessee from sources including primary health care providers, pharmacies and county health departments.
Because influenza can be fatal, the flu vaccine is especially important for people at high risk for serious illness from flu such as the elderly, pregnant women and young children, as well as healthcare workers and family and friends of anyone at high risk. Mothers who are vaccinated against influenza while they are pregnant protect themselves and pass that protection on to their newborn babies.
After your flu vaccination, it’s still important to practice good health habits to protect yourself from the flu and other winter viruses, and to prevent spreading them to others if you do get sick. Good health habits include frequent hand washing with soapy water, keeping hands away from your face, and covering coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or tissue. People who are sick should stay home to recover if at all possible to prevent spreading illness to coworkers, friends and others.
For healthy adults, the flu vaccine can cut down the chances of getting the flu to well below half the chances of unvaccinated individuals. There’s no good reason to wait to get vaccinated. People who got vaccinated with the first doses available in August should have protection for the whole flu season, which can last into May.