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Red Cross recommends getting the flu vaccine

SPRINGVILLE — Much of the United States is experiencing a widespread outbreak of influenza and the American Red Cross is urging those who have not yet gotten a flu vaccine to become vaccinated, as soon as possible.

The Center for Disease Control recommended that everyone 6 months and older receive an annual flu vaccine. Those with chronic conditions, like pulmonary and cardiovascular illness, and residents of nursing homes and other facilities and those with other medical conditions, are at a high risk with the flu. Some locations have reported that the vaccine supply is running low.

“Flu season doesn’t peak until late January or February and can last until May, so it is not too late to get a flu vaccine,” said Dr. Richard Benjamin, chief medical director for the Red Cross. “It takes two weeks for the flu vaccine to provide full protection, so the sooner everyone gets vaccinated, the sooner they will be fully protected.”

Health officials around the country reported that the flu arrived earlier than usual. The number of sick people in Illinois caused some hospitals to turn people away.

An Allentown, Pa. hospital set up a tent outside its emergency room, to treat people with less-severe cases. Maine health authorities are reporting a significantly-higher number of flu cases than normal and North Carolina is currently experiencing its highest flu level in 10 years.

The Red Cross recommended that infected people remain at home until 24 hours after their fever is gone. Other steps to take to avoid contracting the flu are below.

– Wash hands with soap and water for 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, if soap and water are not available.

– Avoid touching the nose, mouth and eyes.

– Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into the upper sleeve. Dispose of tissues.

– Keep telephones and computer equipment disinfected.

– Do not use co-workers’ phones, desks, computers or other tools.

– Avoid coming in close contact with ill co-workers.

Common signs of influenza include high fever, body aches, headache, exhaustion, a sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, vomiting and diarrhea.

Seek medical care immediately, if any of the following symptoms are experienced: fast breathing, trouble breathing or a bluish skin color; pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen; confusion or sudden dizziness; not drinking enough fluids, not being able to eat or severe or persistent vomiting; flu-like symptoms that improve, but then return, with fever and a worse cough; children not waking up, not wanting to be held or not interacting; children experiencing fever with a rash; children who do not shed tears when crying or who have significantly fewer wet diapers than normal.

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