Keep the holidays healthy

With Christmas and New Year’s just around the corner, many Hamilton County residents are planning on hosting or traveling to holiday gatherings. But the fun of those gatherings could be spoiled if influenza rears its nasty head.

The Iowa Department of Public Health reported this week that the spread of influenza is picking up across the state and other parts of the country. IDPH officials said that they’ve seen three strains circulating – H1N1 (the 2009 pandemic strain), H3N2 (the regular seasonal flu strain) and Influenza B. The good news is, this year’s flu vaccine covers all three of the strains. Even better, there is still vaccine available throughout the state.

“We have high dose vaccine for those people 65 and older, and we also have the normal injection vaccine for children and adults,” said Shelby Kroona, Hamilton County Public Health administrator. The local agency no longer has the flu mist vaccine, she added.

Dr Patricia Quinlisk, IDPH medical director, said the chance that flu will spread increases as people head out for holiday gatherings.

“As people gather together for holiday meals and parties, they’re more likely to spread illness around. Receiving the flu vaccine will help you stay healthy and enjoy the festivities,” Quinlisk said.

She added that the vaccine was especially important during gatherings that infants, those with chronic diseases or elderly individuals might attend. People who are ill with flu-like symptoms during the holidays should stay home and away from others, Quinlisk said.

Kroona said that also important are remembering the “3 C’s”- Cover your coughs and sneezes; clean your hands frequently and contain the germs by staying home when ill.

“If you have a fever, stay home. You should be fever free for 24-hours before being around others,” she said.

For more information on flu vaccine, call Public Health at 832-9565.