For many of us, September is a time for getting back into routines and looking forward to the cooler weather. For those of us in healthcare, September also means that flu season is right around the corner.
At Minden Medical Center, our mission is Making Communities Healthier. That means we want to ensure that we do everything we can to prevent the spread of this serious illness and help you stay healthy for the busy months ahead. So, as you get settled into the new fall season this month, make flu prevention part of your routine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly influenza vaccination for everyone six months of age and older as the first and best form of prevention against the flu. Studies show that, not only can the flu vaccine reduce your risk of illness by about 50 to 60 percent, but it can also make your illness milder, should you contract the flu. This results in fewer doctor visits, less time missed from your daily routines and fewer flu-related hospitalizations. By preventing the spread of the virus, you’re helping others in your community who are more vulnerable to serious complications from the flu such as older adults, pregnant women, young children and those with health conditions.
Getting a flu shot is a minor interruption in your schedule, but one whose benefits far outweigh the temporary inconvenience. To get vaccinated, you can visit your primary care physician or our Health First walk-in clinic, 8am-8pm, located downtown Minden. Minden Family Medicine is now offering workplace flu shots. They will bring flu shots to a business for employees. If you don’t have a primary care physician, you can find a complete list of physicians in our network by visiting www.mindenmedicalcenter.com/findadoc or call us at 1-800-424-3627, and we’ll get you connected to the right care.
While getting vaccinated is the first and most important line of defense against contracting and spreading of the flu virus, prevention doesn’t stop there. People who contract the flu virus are actually contagious 24 hours before they begin to feel any symptoms, so it is important to take additional measures to help prevent the flu for you and others.
– Wash your hands regularly with soap and water for 20 seconds, or use a hand sanitizer that is at least 60% alcohol-based.
– Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
– Avoid sharing food, cups or eating utensils.
– Disinfect your home and belongings, such as door knobs, light switches, children’s toys and play areas.
– Stay home from school or work if you are sick to prevent the spread of germs.
– Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing with a tissue, your sleeve or elbow, and NOT your bare hands.
– Get a flu shot.
-Call your local hospital or your primary care doctor with any questions.
At Minden Medical Center, we’ll be doing our part, too, to help prevent the flu from spreading, including:
– Providing masks to all visitors and patients experiencing flu-like symptoms;
– Setting up stations throughout the facility stocked with tissues and alcohol-based hand sanitizers;
– Encouraging all patients, staff and visitors who have not done so already to get their flu shot;
– Providing educational materials to all visitors about everyday preventative actions; and
– If needed, limiting visitation hours to help limit the spread of infection.
Should you contract the flu, early detection is key. Prescription antiviral drugs can help reduce the time you’re sick if the virus is caught early enough. And early detection is especially important for those who are susceptible to serious complications. If you or a loved one begins to notice symptoms including coughing, sore throat, fever or upper respiratory symptoms, it’s important to see your doctor right away.
You should also limit contact with others as much as possible immediately after noticing symptoms. Stay home (or keep your child home) for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone, except to seek medical care or for other necessities.
At Minden Medical Center, we truly care about your health and well-being. For additional information about this year’s flu season, visit www.cdc.org/flu.
Gregory Pearson is CEO of Minden Medical Center.