Health department sees increase in flu

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By Special to the Chronicle

The Citrus County Health Department (CCHD) has seen an increase in seasonal flu cases throughout the past holiday season.

Seasonal flu is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the influenza virus. Compared with most other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, influenza infection often causes a more severe illness. 

“The most effective precautions we can take to fight illness are getting vaccinated against the flu virus and practicing good hygiene,” CCHD Medical Director Dr. Mary Ann Kolar said. “This season, everyone 6 months and older should get vaccinated, even if they received a vaccine last season. With the holidays over and many people traveling, these simple precautions lessen your risk of exposure to the virus or transmission to others.” 

Be sure to watch for symptoms of influenza, such as headache, fever, cough, body aches or extreme tiredness. 

The Florida Department of Health urges the following preventive steps for the flu: 

* Get re-vaccinated every flu season because flu viruses change each year. 

* If you are sick with a flu–like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care. Your fever should be gone without the use of  fever-reducing medicine. 

* If you have a chronic illness, or are pregnant, contact your health care provider if you have an illness that might be influenza. You may benefit from treatment with prescription antiviral medication. 

* Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way. 

* Wash your hands often throughout the day, whether you are sick or not, with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. 

* Chronic illnesses that put you at risk for more severe influenza and complications, no matter how old you are, include: diabetes, heart disease, asthma, emphysema, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cancer, and neurological and developmental disorders. People who are obese are also at increased risk of severe influenza. 

To locate flu vaccine, contact your health care provider or visit these links: www.flu.gov/whereyoulive/index.html or www.doh.state.fl.us/Disease_ctrl/immune/flu/flu_locator.htm.

For more information, visit the state Department of Health website at www.doh.state.fl.us or the county health department at www.citruscountyhealth.org.