COLUMBIA, SC (WMBF) - National Influenza Vaccination Week is December 6-12 and the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is encouraging South Carolinians to get their yearly flu vaccination to help reduce the spread of illness this winter.
"Receiving your annual flu vaccine is the single best way to protect yourselves and your loved ones from the flu this holiday season, and throughout the year," said Linda Bell, M.D. and state epidemiologist. "Each flu season is unique, the timing of the peak activity and how severe a season will be are hard to predict. Therefore, we strongly encourage South Carolinians who have not yet received the flu vaccine this year, particularly those at high risk of complications, to get vaccinated."
The flu, also referred to as influenza, is a serious respiratory disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Anyone can get sick from the flu. Those especially at risk from complications of the flu are adults 65 years or older, children six months to five years of age, women who are pregnant, and individuals with certain chronic medical conditions such as asthma, lung disease, heart, kidney and liver disorders, diabetes and others with weakened immune systems.
The Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention and DHEC recommend that everyone six months of age and older get a yearly flu vaccine. Even if you don't have a regular health care provider you can still get the flu vaccine. In addition to DHEC, many local providers -- including doctors' offices, clinics, pharmacies, college health centers, schools and workplaces -- now offer flu vaccines. DHEC encourages everyone to find the facility that works best for them.
In addition to receiving an annual flu vaccine, South Carolinians are encouraged to take the following preventive measures:
• Stay away from people who are sick.
• Stay home from work and school as well as refrain from errands if you are sick. By doing so, you will help keep others from getting sick, too.
• Cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Use a tissue if one is handy. Throw it away immediately after use. Otherwise, use the crook of your elbow.
• Wash your hands often and thoroughly.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when someone touches something that is covered with germs and then touches their eyes, nose or mouth.
Other good habits include getting plenty of exercise and sleep, managing your stress, drinking water and eating good food to help you stay healthy in the winter and all year.
For more information about the flu and to find a clinic near you,visit scdhec.gov/flu