Public Health Emergency - Leading a Nation Prepared
Author: ASPR/OPP Division of Policy and Strategic Planning Published Date: 12/5/2016 10:34:00 AM
Category: Public Health Preparedness; National Health Security;
This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week. You probably know that getting vaccinated is one great way to prevent getting the flu. Getting a flu vaccine also helps you keep your family and community healthy. It even helps you become a little more prepared for disasters.
For everyone, getting the flu makes daily life harder. At a minimum, you’ll feel lousy and you’ll probably have to miss some time at school or work. But a lot of people have complications. People with the flu may also develop bacterial pneumonia, ear infections, sinus infections, and dehydration.
Of course, the flu is more likely to be a serious problem for some people. If you have an existing medical condition, like congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes, the flu can make your condition worse. If you are battling HIV or cancer, you are at risk. Even people who are pregnant or over 65 years old face special risks.
If you are a parent, make sure your children get their flu shots. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older. Children ages 5 and younger are at high risk of severe flu complications, especially those ages 2 and younger. It’s estimated that more than 20,000 children ages 5 and younger are hospitalized every year because of flu-related issues.
If your child is under 6 months old, he or she can’t get a flu shot, so parents need to take some extra steps to protect their children. Make sure that you and your child’s caregivers are vaccinated and take other steps to keep your child from getting the flu, like washing your hands and your child’s hands, washing toys, and taking other steps to keep them away from germs.
You may not have any of these conditions – you might be totally healthy and you might not have any children. Now think about your the people that you see every day. Are any of them pregnant? Children? Elderly? Have a medical condition? What about people in your broader community?
By protecting yourself, you also help protect the people around you – from your family to your coworkers to your community. If you don’t have the flu, you probably won’t give it to other people. Most healthy people can infect others about a day before they start to feel sick. If you catch the flu, you could put others at risk without even knowing it.
Remember that it takes about two weeks for your flu vaccine to become effective. So if you are traveling for the holidays, you need to get one as soon as possible to protect the people you are planning to visit.
Getting vaccinated is one small way to help protect the people around you. Helping them to get vaccinated as well is even better. That could start with a quick conversation with your friends or neighbors reminding them to get their flu shot. You could also volunteer to help other people get vaccinated. Organizations like the Medical Reserve Corps run vaccination clinics and they rely on help from volunteers to make that happen.
Being healthy and flu-free helps you face everyday challenges, but it is even more important if a disaster strikes in your community.
Think about a disaster that has happened in your area—a flood, a bad storm, or a wildfire. Now imagine all of the things you needed to do in the wake of that disaster—checking in with family, friends, and neighbors, cleaning-up your home, helping with relief actions or shelters. Now think about having to do all those things while you or your family are sick with influenza.
Everyday activities to stay healthy, like keeping up with influenza vaccinations, are a small way you can make sure that you’re ready and able to protect yourself and help others if and when the next disaster strikes.
The decisions we make for ourselves, within our families, and in our communities all add up.
Getting your flu shot is just one small way you can help national health security. In getting vaccinated, you and your family will be better protected against seasonal flu, and in having more people in your community vaccinated, the country is better protected overall against flu this year, creating a healthier, stronger, more resilient nation.
At your doctor’s office, your local pharmacy, schools, grocery stores, health clinics, private workplaces—there are many places where flu shots are made available each and every year. Ask your friends and family where they go for theirs.
Still not sure where to get your flu vaccination? Visit CDC.gov/flu to find a location near you!
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