Flu is a seasonal threat that can result in extended illness or hospitalization. Seasonal flu vaccination is the best way to protect adults and children from the flu and its complications.
Yearly flu shots are recommended by the CDC for everyone six months of age and older. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses and prevent flu-related hospitalizations and death. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for full protection against the flu to take effect. Get your flu vaccine by the end of October for best protection.
Keeping Schools Healthy
February 8th, 2019
The Mississippi State Department of Health is reporting widespread influenza in the state. While not unexpected for this time of year, we are seeing the highest influenza activity reported so far this season. Additionally, we have heard of schools being impacted by increased absences due to influenza. School-aged children are often a group with high rates of influenza infection; in Mississippi, most of the reported flu-like illnesses are in individuals under 24 years of age. Even though we are in the middle of the flu season, it’s not too late to get vaccinated. Vaccination is the best way to decrease the risk of influenza infection and the best way to reduce the risk of complications from influenza.
Basic infection control in school settings should always be promoted and maintained, not only during flu season. For full details on influenza prevention in school settings, see the CDC Guidance for School Administrators to Help Reduce the Spread of Seasonal Influenza in K-12 Schools at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/school/guidance.htm. Below is a summary of activities schools can take to prevent the spread of influenza.
Key Points to Prevent the Spread of Flu in Schools
- Encourage students, parents, and staff to get a yearly flu vaccine: Teach students, parents, and staff that the single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each flu season.
- Stay home when sick: Students and staff with flu-like illness should stay home until fever free for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicines. They should stay home even if they are using antiviral drugs.
- Separate ill students and staff: Students and staff who appear to have flu-like illness should be sent to a room separate from others until they can be sent home. The CDC recommends that they wear a surgical mask, if possible, and that those who care for ill students and staff wear protective gear such as a mask.
- Hand hygiene: The CDC recommends that students and staff be encouraged to wash their hands often with soap and water, especially after coughing or sneezing.
- Respiratory etiquette: The CDC recommends covering the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing (or a shirt sleeve or elbow if no tissue is available) and throwing the tissue in the trash after use.
- Routine cleaning: School staff should routinely clean areas that students and staff touch often with the cleaners they typically use. Special cleaning and disinfecting processes, including wiping down walls and ceilings, are not necessary or recommended. For guidance to slow the spread of flu in schools with cleaning and disinfecting, see http://www.cdc.gov/flu/pdf/freeresources/updated/cleaning_disinfecting_schools.pdf
Who we vaccinate for flu
MSDH county clinics offer pediatric flu vaccinations for children up to age 18. Certain high-risk adults who lack health insurance coverage or who are underinsured can also receive their flu shots at county health departments.
Who should get a flu shot
Yearly flu shots are recommended by the CDC for everyone six months of age and older. Those, particularly at risk for influenza complications, include young children, adults 65 and older, pregnant women, and those with a chronic illness.
Protection for children
It’s especially important that children with underlying medical problems such as neuro-developmental or other disorders receive the flu vaccination. During the 2017-2018 influenza season, three flu-related deaths of children under 18 years of age were reported in Mississippi. Further recommendations »
Where to find a flu shot
Check with your health care provider about this season’s flu shot. County health departments provide flu shots to all children, and to qualifying adults who lack insurance coverage. Flu shots are also widely available at pharmacies and retail centers. Find one near you by entering your zip code in the Flu Shot Locator.
MSDH accepts private insurance, Medicaid, CHIP, and Vaccines for Children (VFC) coverage. Cost under the VFC program is $10.
Take 3: A three-part strategy to fight flu
1. Take time to get a flu vaccine each year
- Flu vaccination not only can help prevent the spread of flu but more importantly, it can save lives. In the 2017-2018 flu season, an estimated 80,000 adults nationwide died from the flu, as well as 180 children. Three of those children were Mississippians..
- Each flu season brings new strains of flu that you need protection against. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school due to flu, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.
- The flu vaccine is available as traditional injections, nasal spray, and high-dose versions for older people. Whichever one you choose, be sure that you get it soon enough for a full season of protection – preferably before the end of October.
- Infants younger than six months of age aren’t protected by flu vaccination. When you take steps to prevent flu, you’re helping protect them, too.
2. Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. After using a tissue, throw it in the trash and wash your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs.
- If you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. If you have flu symptoms, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of fever-reducing medicine.)
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
3. Take antivirals to treat your flu if your doctor prescribes them
- Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications, especially if you take them as soon as possible after symptoms appear.
- For those at high risk, antiviral drugs can mean the difference between having a milder illness or more a serious illness, hospitalization or death.
- Antiviral drugs are only available by prescription.
- Antiviral drugs can treat flu once you become ill, but they can’t prevent the flu. The flu vaccine has proven to be the best way to prevent the flu.
Categories: State News