Due to the presence of COVID-19, the 2020 flu season could prove to be the most significant on record. As communities work tirelessly to identify COVID cases and mitigate the impact of the ongoing pandemic, the flu will bring illness with shared symptoms, clouding the waters currently being navigated by healthcare workers across Southeast Alaska.
Not only will the incoming flu season hamper identification of particular viruses, but providers and facilities are preparing for a drastic rise in activity as the job of protecting our high-risk patients just became exponentially more difficult. To assist in protecting you, your family, and your neighbors from influenza and COVID-19, we ask that you continue to utilize these prevention measures.
SEARHC and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that individuals six months of age and older receive a flu vaccine. It is especially important if you are at a higher risk of developing complications from the flu due to pre-existing medical conditions. Others at greater risk for complications from an influenza virus are pregnant women, children under five, people 65 and over, and Alaska Natives and Native Americans.
By taking care of yourself and getting vaccinated, you are helping the vulnerable people in your community become less likely to catch the flu because they are less likely to be exposed. And remember, every year flu strains evolve and adapt to the previous year’s vaccines, so flu shots must be an annual event. In addition, receiving a flu shot this season will also help potentially rule out certain viral strains and assist in promptly identifying confirmed COVID-19 cases.
SEARHC has flu vaccines ready at each of our clinics. Please contact your local clinic to make an appointment to be vaccinated. To learn more about the flu, visit www.cdc.gov/flu or call 800-CDC-INFO.
Wash your hands
Besides being vaccinated, the best thing to do to prevent catching the flu is to wash your hands and wash them often and thoroughly. As you’ve heard consistently since February, use soap and get a good lather going for at least 20 seconds. Rinse and dry with a clean towel.
Be considerate when sneezing and coughing
When tissues aren’t handy, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve to contain germs. Do not sneeze or cough into your hands as the next thing you touch will be compromised. This, too, may increase the risk of germs spreading to your family and friends. If a tissue is handy (best option) make sure you cover your nose and mouth with the tissue before sneezing and coughing into it. Remember to throw away used tissues in a proper waste receptacle and then practice hand hygiene.
Don’t touch your face
To be extra cautious, try not to touch your face. The flu virus can enter the body in several ways, including through the mouth, nose and eyes.
Keep devices and other frequently touched items clean
Popular devices such as cell phones, remotes, tablets, keyboards, doorknobs, light switches, railings and toys can be sources for germs. Cleaning these items frequently can help you or your family members stay healthy when someone has the flu.
Exercise and eat healthy foods
Flu season corresponds with the winter months for a simple reason. People are indoors and in close contact. Reduce your risk of getting sick by avoiding people who are sick and boosting your immune system through healthy eating, exercise, plenty of sleep, and smiling!
Know the symptoms
Facing the fact that you may be sick is the fastest way to recovery. If you are experiencing coughing, headache, fever/chills, stuffy or runny nose, fatigue/muscle aches or even just feeling the blues, surrender to rest, drink plenty of water, and call the SEARHC nurse helpline for next steps. If you are immune-compromised or elderly, call your doctor and stay away from clinics and emergency rooms.
Stay home if you experience symptoms
Prevent the spread of the flu by staying home if you are experiencing symptoms and keep your children home from school and daycare if they are sick, especially if they are running a fever. To get everyone back on their feet as soon as possible, stay home for at least another 24 hours after the fever and other symptoms have subsided.
The flu is no fun for anyone and can be dangerous for some. With COVID-19 still present in our communities, reducing the impact of other illnesses is paramount. Please follow the steps above so you and the majority of Southeast Alaskans can escape the flu this season and look forward to a healthy spring and summer.