Get A Flu Shot – A Gift For Yourself And The Family

Flu season starts early nationwide; no cases yet confirmed in Gila County

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It might be December, but it’s not too late to give yourself and your family the gift of a flu shot.

National Influenza Vaccination Week (NIVW) highlights the importance of continuing influenza vaccination.

Gila County wants to make sure children have access to the vaccine and other necessary immunizations. A change in the Center for Disease Control’s Vaccines for Children program in October restricted the use of its supplies to children on AHCCCS, the uninsured, Native Americans and Native Alaskans.

On Dec. 4, the Gila County Health Department requested money to purchase vaccine for children not covered by the CDC’s Vaccines for Children program.

The request could shift up to $75,000 from the department’s immunization account into its private stock vaccine account.

“No children will go without immunization,” Jendean Sartain of the health department told the supervisors.

She said the county is running short of the flu vaccine and urged everyone to make sure they get a shot as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, getting the flu is easier than you think.

The average adult touches about 30 objects each minute. Experts say flu and cold viruses can live on hard surfaces, such as light switches and door knobs, for up to 18 hours. That means all of those high traffic areas at the office, our home, our local grocery store or eatery, can harbor viruses. That’s why experts are on a crusade to get everyone to take this flu season seriously and listen to the CDC’s recommendations.

Last year’s mild flu season has prompted many families to ignore this year’s warnings. However, doctors note that the season has started about a month earlier than normal this year. Many physicians agree about two distinct reasons for the early start:

• The flu survives best when the air is dry, whether indoors or outdoors. The less humidity and moisture in the air, the higher the risk of the flu virus spreading.

• The virus spreads more quickly during the holidays as families gather with loved ones from all over the country, often in close quarters. Different strains of the virus spread through different areas, but the holidays mix them all together.

As of Nov. 24, 2012, the CDC reported flu cases in 49 of the 50 states, with only Vermont remaining flu-free. The report showed the virus is widespread in New York, Mississippi, South Carolina and Alaska.

As of Dec. 4, the Gila County Health Department had confirmed no local cases, but the CDC lists the state as “sporadic.”

In addition to Arizona, the CDC reported sporadic influenza activity in the District of Columbia, and 17 other states: California, Florida, Hawaii, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia.

Flu facts

• The U.S. flu season can run from October through May.

• Typically 1 in 5 Americans gets the flu each year with peak seasons in January, February and March.

• Flu related illnesses cause some 200,000 hospitalizations each year.

• 90 percent of flu related deaths are people age 65 or older.

• The past two years, only 42 percent of Americans got vaccinated.

• Even the vaccine doesn’t provide 100 percent protection.

Take steps to fight the flu

• Bring your own pen — to the bank, the grocery store, even to touch the ATM.

• Use paper — replace hand towels in bathrooms with paper towels. While not as “pretty,” paper towels can help get rid of germs in damp towels.

• Wipe down grocery carts — The handles of almost two-thirds of the shopping carts tested in a recent study at the University of Arizona were contaminated with bacteria at levels higher than public restrooms.

• Wash hands — use soap, warm water and rinse long enough to say the alphabet or sing “Happy Birthday.” Recent studies show plain soap and water works just as well, if not better than antibacterial soaps. Use an alcohol-based sanitizer after washing your hands in a public restroom, since research shows 25 percent of public restroom soap dispensers are contaminated with bacteria.

• Clean with disinfectant — Viruses and bacteria can live up to 18 hours on doorknobs, toys, TV remote controls, keyboards, mouse pads, refrigerator handles, counter tops, railings, faucets, bathroom floors and more.

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