Washing your hands with soap and warm water, avoiding contact with sick people, and keeping doorknobs, commonly held items and other surfaces disinfected are easy ways to avoid catching the flu this season, according to local health care providers.
“If you’re sick, cover your mouth with tissue when sneezing and coughing, and be mindful not to spread germs,” said Dr. Jessica Anne Lauderdale, a physician at the Pontotoc Medical Clinic.
Those six months and older should consider getting a flu shot, Lauderdale said. It’s not too late. The Center for Disease Control recommends getting the shot, even through January. Expect about two weeks after vaccination for full protection to take effect, Lauderdale said.
Rebecca Butler, a nurse practitioner at Acute Care Family Clinic of Pontotoc, agreed.
“We unofficially consider spring break as the end of flu season, so peole should consider getting vaccinated through then,” said Butler.
The flu is serious, especially for those with weak immune systems, like infants, the elderly, and those with conditions that weaken the immune system, like HIV. Pregnant women should also receive a vaccination. People 50 and older are the largest demographic effected by the flu each year. Last year, the illness claimed the lives of more than 61,000 Americans, among them 116 children, including a two-year-old girl in Summerall.
For the week ending Dec. 14, Mississippi clinics reported 17,670 patients treated with flu-like symptoms, according the Health Department.
The flu spreads aggressively in the workplace and school, places where folks are close in proximity. Simple precautions can prevent an epidemic, Butler said.
“Don’t eat after one another,” Butler said. “Just because folks aren’t exhibiting symptoms, doesn’t mean they’re not sick.”
Some patients have come into her clinic with no fever, and tested positive for the flu, Butler said.
“Change your toothbrush at least once a month. Don’t send a sick child back to school unless they have no fever, without the aid of medicine, for at least 24 hours,” said Butler.
Cough into your elbow—not your hand—and teach kids to do the same, Butler said.
Folks wanting a vaccine may consider the following.
- Those 18 and under who are eligible for the Vaccines for Children Program can receive a flu vaccination for $10. Insurance, Medicad and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is accepted for children’s flu shots.
- Adults who are underinsured or uninsured and meet high-risk criteria qualify for an adult flu vaccination at MSDH county clinics.
- Flu shots for insured adults are now available through private physicians, pharmacies, retail centers.
Symptoms of the flu include:
- Sore throat
- Muscle and body aches
Flu season in Mississippi can begin as early as November and continue as late as March, but it usually peaks from December through February.
The Pontotoc County Health Department is located at 341 Ridge Road. Call (662) 489-1241. It is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.