XENIA — Influenza is now widespread in Greene County.
The affected West Central Ohio region also includes Champaign, Clark, Darke, Miami, Montgomery, Preble and Shelby counties.
Unlike the common cold, the flu has a swift onset of severe symptoms beginning with two to seven days of fever, headache, muscle aches, extreme fatigue, and a cough, and is very contagious.
According to Greene County Public Health (GCPH) officials, it’s not too late for residents to get a flu vaccination. Health officials are encouraging residents to protect themselves by getting vaccinated as soon as possible and by following other preventive actions as flu cases and hospitalizations continue to rise.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a flu shot now. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctors’ visits, and missed work and school, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations.
Through week 52 of the flu season, which ended Dec. 28, there have been 472 influenza-associated hospitalizations and 2,574 outpatient cases reported in the region, according to a GCPH release. Health officials believe the numbers are actually higher, since many people who are infected with the flu do not go to the doctor.
“It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to fully develop in the body,” said Dr. Michael Dohn, Medical Director for Public Health – Dayton & Montgomery County. “With flu cases on the rise, it is very important to get vaccinated to make sure you and your loved ones are protected against the virus.”
Getting vaccinated is especially important for people who are more vulnerable to serious flu complications, including older adults, young children, pregnant women, and people with long-term health conditions, the release said. Many people in vulnerable groups are also visited by friends and relatives. When their visitors are immunized, that also make them less likely to spread the flu to them.
Other preventive actions residents should take include:
— Washing hands often with soap and water or using an alcohol-based sanitizer when unable to wash.
— Avoiding touching eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread this way.
— Resting. Sleep helps the body fight off illness.
— If sick, staying home until fever-free for 24 hours without using fever reducing medication.
— Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue.
Flu vaccines are offered by many doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, and pharmacies.