Staying healthy this flu season

By Gray Hughes

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Flu season is here, and there has been one death attributed to the disease so far this year in South Dakota, a Pennington County resident in the 60-69 age range.

Despite the one death, the flu season has been slow to build up, said Dr. Josh Clayton, state epidemiologist with the South Dakota Department of Health.

“We have identified 52 lab confirmed cases, most being influenza A,” he said. “This has resulted in 12 hospitalizations and one death.”

Last year’s flu season, though, was considered severe, with over 800 hospitalizations and over 70 deaths in the state.

Each year, an average of 33 South Dakotan deaths are attributed to the flu, according to information provided by the department of health.

The most important thing one can do to stay healthy this flu season is get vaccinated, he said.

It is safe, he said, and it is not too late to get vaccinated.

Flu vaccines are recommended for anyone 6 months or older.

Groups such as pregnant women, children younger than 5, people over 65 and people with chronic medical conditions are at higher risk for flu-related complications, such as pneumonia, hospitalization and death.

The flu is a viral infection spread by respiratory droplets released when someone with the flu coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms of the flu includes fevers of 100 degrees or warmer, cough, sore throat, headache, fatigue, body or muscle aches and runny or stuffy nose.

“Take precautionary steps for any respiratory illness this year,” he said. “This includes covering your mouth and nose when you cough and sneeze, use soap and water frequently, don’t touch your eyes, nose and mouth as those are the primary areas where the flu enters your body and stay home when you are sick to prevent spreading the flu to people at school and work.”

Dr. Clayton said they also recommend getting the flu vaccine so long as it is flu season is in the state, which typically lasts until April.

Getting it done early in the season is the best way to go because it takes up to two weeks for the vaccine to start working, he said.

“If individuals do get the flu, one of the most important things is to stay home,” he said. “If they do start developing severe symptoms, they have difficulties taking fluids and staying hydrated, that is an important time. If you cough or fever get severe or go on for a long period of time that is a good sign that it is time to see your doctors.”

The flu, he said, can be transmitted in a six-foot area when someone is coughing, sneezing or even talking.

If someone is providing care for someone with the flu, it is important to be cautious in that six-foot area.

“Take appropriate precautions and wash hands,” he said. “If someone is up and around wash often, make sure they are using tissues when they cough or sneeze and have them throw it in the trashcan and wipe down surfaces. You can use cleaners or 10 percent bleach to clean off surfaces when they sneeze or get other bodily fluids on the surface.”

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