For a Safe Holiday, Get a Flu Vaccine and Practice Good Hand Hygiene
National Handwashing Awareness Week is Dec. 6-12, 2015
NASHVILLE – Many people will be visiting family and friends this holiday season, some traveling to other states. Doing your part to reduce the risk of influenza, colds and other illnesses can help keep family, friends and your community healthy this holiday season.
‘’Most everyone knows by now how important getting your flu vaccine is to protect people around you and that you can sometimes pass flu to other people without even feeling sick yourself, but as busy as we get, too many of us put it off,’’ said Tennessee Department of Health Commissioner John Dreyzehner, MD, MPH. ‘’The good news is there is still time to protect others by protecting yourself and with so many gatherings of friends and family this time of year, why wouldn’t you get vaccinated? That is the spirit of the season.’’
In addition to the very young, the elderly and those with weakened immune systems, it is important to remember that flu can lead to serious illness or deaths among children and adults who are otherwise healthy. In recent flu seasons the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports about half of the children who died from influenza were otherwise healthy.
There should be a record quantity of influenza vaccine available in the U.S. this year, with over 170 million doses produced. People ages 2 to 49 that prefer the nasal spray flu vaccine may have had difficulty locating it this season due to production delays; however, it is becoming more widely available. All versions of the influenza vaccine are equally recommended.
Contact your health care provider about flu vaccine locations near you, or visit the Vaccine Finder available at http://flushot.healthmap.org/.
‘’The holidays are a time when children are out of school, more people are traveling, going to holiday gatherings, which creates an environment for germs to be passed from one person to another,’’ said State Epidemiologist Tim Jones, MD.
The risk for respiratory illness also tends to increase during the holidays. Because there is no vaccine available for some respiratory viruses, washing your hands is a good way to protect others and stay healthy.
‘’Washing your hands is more than just putting your hands under running water, ‘’ Jones said. ‘’The best way to wash your hands and protect yourself from the flu and other viruses and to prevent spreading them to others if you are sick is to wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.’’
Other ways to stay healthy include: using alcohol-based hand sanitizers, and covering coughs and sneezes with a sleeve or tissue. People who are sick should stay home to recover, preventing the spread of illness to schoolmates, co-workers, friends and others.
For more tips on the importance of handwashing, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website: http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/.
The mission of the Tennessee Department of Health is to protect, promote and improve the health and prosperity of people in Tennessee. TDH has facilities in all 95 counties and provides direct services for more than one in five Tennesseans annually as well as indirect services for everyone in the state, including emergency response to health threats, licensure of health professionals, regulation of health care facilities and inspection of food service establishments. Learn more about TDH services and programs at www.tn.gov/health.