The influenza vaccine is not a cure for the flu, nor is one guaranteed not to get the flu just because they received it.
Yet, those who are covered by the vaccine against the influenza virus have a significantly greater chance of staying healthy than those who do nothing.
While the height of the flu season is still ahead, influenza is here. The Minnesota Department of Health officially announced the first confirmed case of influenza Oct. 2 in an individual from Mankato. This confirmation comes much earlier than is typical, as the traditional peak of the season for flu comes sometime in December through February.
According to Julie Fiala, infection prevention manager for the Redwood Area Hospital, just because thee has been a confirmed case of influenza already that does not mean this is going to be a bad year.
One season ago influenza was more prolific than it had been in prior years, and for a time area hospitals, including the Redwood Area Hospital, and other care facilities restricted visitors.
No one knows what is going to happen when it comes to influenza, but one can do their part by getting the vaccine that is available.
According to Fiala, the vaccine available each year includes different strains of the influenza, and those strains included are based on what trends have ap-peared globally to be showing up in people.
The most abundant vaccine available this year has two Type A strains included, with on Type B. Fiala said the flu that was most apparent one year ago was a Type B that was covered.
This year a new vaccine is also being offered in limited amounts that includes two Type A and two Type B strains. Fiala surmised in the future the vaccine available in large scale is going to include four strains.
“Every year the vaccine is changed, and last year was a good match,” said Fiala.
While the traditional way to receive the vaccine is through a shot, more flu mist options are also becoming available. Those 50 and over are not eligible for the mist, anyone ages two through 49 can get it.
“The mist is most effective in healthy people,” explained Fiala, adding the mist actually includes a weakened strain of the flu.
The vaccine given in shot form is not alive and is available to anyone six months of age and older.
“The vaccine is not perfect,” said Fiala, adding, however, it is a good prevention measure.
While some may think they don’t need the vaccine, Fiala said people might want to consider those they are around as well, as individuals who do get the flu could pass it on to others who have weakened immune systems or who are very old or very young.
Page 2 of 2 - Caregivers are encouraged to get the flu vaccine, and Fiala said the local hospital has been recognized for its participation.
“We had a 93 percent participation rate last year,” said Fiala. “I hope we can keep that up this year.”
Getting a vaccination is pretty easy, said Fiala, as locations, including ACMC and local pharmacies, have it available. She said it usually takes a couple of weeks for the flu shot to become effective, which is why it is important to get the vaccine sooner rather than later.
Fiala also offered some important reminders for those who want to avoid the flu, including washing hands on a regular basis.
Those who do come down with the flu are asked to stay at home to ensure they are not passing it on to others.
“The flu is highly contagious,” said Fiala, adding the best option is to stay at home at least 24 hours after the fever breaks not using medication.
“If you are sick don’t go places where there are a lot of people,” she said, adding that includes places such as hospitals where people are already weakened.
“Cover your cough,” she said. “What our moms taught us years ago still works.”
Influenza is not the stomach flu, added Fiala.
Symptoms include fever, chills, muscle and joint aches, fatigue, headaches and nose congestion.
More information on influenza can be found on the Minnesota Department of Health Web site at www.health.state.mn.us.