Wyoming Department of Health 2-1, 2106
With flu activity reports beginning to increase, the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) wants residents to know they should take common-sense steps to avoid spreading influenza or becoming ill with the disease.
Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a virus. Symptoms include fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose and muscle aches. Influenza can sometimes cause severe illness.
Dr. Tracy Murphy, state epidemiologist with WDH, said “While there have been relatively few reported flu cases so far this season, we are seeing a recent noticeable increase. The current level is still low for what we would expect to see during the more active periods of a flu season. We know that the timing of peak activity can vary from season to season.”
Murphy said influenza should not be taken for granted. “The 2014-15 influenza season was very severe with 29 influenza-associated deaths reported in Wyoming. This was an unusually high number for our state.”
Common-sense measures can help slow or prevent influenza’s spread. “Covering your mouth and nose with your sleeve or a tissue when you sneeze and cough; frequently washing your hands; and staying home from work, school, day care and errands when you are ill can help,” Murphy said.
Flu vaccines are also available in many locations; WDH recommends nearly everyone over the age of six months receive an annual flu vaccination. “Because we are not yet seeing widespread community transmission or the likely peak of activity, we want people to know it’s not too late for vaccination,” Murphy said.
“While not always perfect, vaccines are the most effective and most important tool available to help prevent influenza. This season’s vaccine appears to be a good match to the strains circulating in Wyoming,” he said.
Murphy reminded residents it takes about two weeks for flu vaccines to offer protection.
Doctors may recommend prescription antiviral medications to help treat influenza. “For antiviral medications to be a good option, it is important to seek medical care quickly,” Murphy advised.
Prescription antiviral medications may be especially helpful for persons at higher risk for complications from flu such as young children, adults 65 years of age or older, persons with chronic medical conditions, persons with altered immune systems, women who are pregnant or soon after delivery, persons less than 19 years of age who are on long-term aspirin therapy for other conditions, those who are extremely overweight, and residents of nursing homes or other chronic-care facilities.
Murphy said residents who become ill should get lots of rest, drink plenty of liquids and avoid using alcohol or tobacco. “You may also take medications to relieve your symptoms, but should avoid giving products containing aspirin to children or teens with flu-like symptoms,” he said.