While the peak of flu season has passed, the Florida Department of Health is reporting most counties in the state continued to report mild influenza activity in week 14 of 2019, with seven counties reported moderate influenza activity.

What is the flu?

The flu (influenza) is a contagious respiratory infection caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Signs of the flu are wide ranging and include fever, runny nose, cough, headaches, and muscle fatigue. Serious cases can result in hospitalization or even death. It can be spread by coming into contact with those who carry the virus, either by proximity to coughing or sneezing, or by touching a surface on which the flu has been left and vicariously touching the mouth, nose, or eyes soon after contact.

What is its impact?

According to the Center for Disease Control, more than 200,000 Americans are hospitalized on average each year. From 2011 to 2016, hospitalizations related to flu infections ranged on an annual basis from 140,000 during the 2011-2012 season to 710,000 in the 2014-2015 season.

What is the flu vaccine?

The best preventative step you can take in avoiding the flu is to get vaccinated every year. Flu vaccines introduce antibodies in your system to form and defend against infections. The vaccines are crafted specifically to the predictions of researchers on the upcoming makeup of new influenza strains, meaning new vaccines are made to fight the flu each year.

Who should get vaccinated?

Anyone older than six months should receive some form of a flu vaccine. It is a common encouragement and a preventative help for yourself and those around you. People with certain current conditions are at a higher risk of contracting the virus. Those with conditions such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease, HIV or AIDS, cancer, pregnant women, and anyone over the age of 65 have an increased chance of coming down with flu.

What can you do?

The Florida Department of Health recommends some simple steps to take every day to prevent the spread of influenza and other respiratory viruses:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water (if soap is not available, use an alcohol-based sanitizer)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • If you do get sick, stay home until fever-free for at least 24 hours.

Flu vaccinations are available through a Brevard Health Alliance location near you. For a list of our locations, visit: https://www.bhachc.org/