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Even though winter doesn’t officially start until December 21, it’s time to get your flu vaccine and be extra careful with hygiene to help prevent getting the flu and spreading it to others. Dr. Jerry Zuckerman, Chief Quality and Patient Safety Officer for Einstein Healthcare Network, offers this advice for staying healthy this flu season. Flu should be taken very seriously.It is a contagious and potentially fatal virus that attacks the nose, throat and lungs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year, about 200,000 people in the United States are hospitalized with flu complications and 36,000 die.There are some simple things everyone can do to try and avoid the flu, starting with hand hygiene. After sneezing, coughing, changing a diaper or using the restroom, wash your hands thoroughly for 15-20 seconds with warm water and soap, and dry your hands with a paper towel or an air dryer. Additional preventive measures: • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Immediately throw the tissue away and wash or sanitize your hands. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your upper sleeve, not your hands.• Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth, eyes and nose.• Eat properly, get enough sleep and dress appropriately for the weather, in order to protect your immune system. These measures are not foolproof. If you do come down with the flu, it usually comes on suddenly and may include symptoms such as fever, headache, extreme fatigue, body aches, dry cough, sore throat, or nasal congestion. Your best chance to prevent the flu is to get a vaccination. The CDC recommends that everyone over the age of six months receive the flu vaccine this season. It’s important to get a flu shot every year since the flu strains that cause infections may change and protection decreases over time. The flu vaccine is administered either by an injection, which contains killed virus, or by a nostril spray, which contains a weakened form of the virus. The nasal spray flu vaccine is not appropriate for everyone. Ask your healthcare provider to advise you further. Keep in mind that you CANNOT get sick with the flu from the flu vaccine. Mild reactions after a flu shot are possible and may include soreness, redness or swelling at the site of the injection. You may experience muscle aches, low-grade fever, fatigue or eye irritation. Possible reactions after receiving the nasal spray flu vaccine include a runny nose, sore throat, cough, or headache. Any symptoms experienced after vaccination should only last one or two days. Severe allergic reactions from flu vaccines, such as wheezing, difficulty breathing, or hives, are very rare.
Vaccinations to prevent seasonal influenza have a long record of success, effectiveness and safety in the United States, according to Federal health officials. To protect patients from getting the flu when they visit a doctor’s office or hospital, it is recommended that all healthcare workers receive the flu vaccine. Since 2011, Einstein Healthcare Network requires that all employees receive the flu vaccine every year. Last year, 99 percent of Einstein’s employees were vaccinated and we’re well on our way to achieving the same results this year with our 9,000 employees.