CRESTVIEW — Following an uptick in flu activity, the Okaloosa County Health Department urges residents and visitors to help limit risk of exposure to seasonal flu and get vaccinated.


CRESTVIEW — Following an uptick in flu activity, the Okaloosa County Health Department urges residents and visitors to help limit risk of exposure to seasonal flu and get vaccinated.



The United States has seen significant increases in flu activity over the past two weeks, which indicates an early flu season, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.



The flu is an infection of the respiratory tract caused by the influenza virus. Compared with most other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, influenza infection often causes a more severe illness.



“The most effective precautions we can use to fight illness are getting vaccinated as soon as possible and by practicing good hygiene habits,” said Dr. Karen Chapman, director of the Okaloosa County Health Department. “There is still time to get the influenza vaccine. With the holidays approaching, and many people traveling or gathering with family and friends, these simple precautions may lessen your risk of getting influenza.”



Those at highest risk during flu season include children under 5 years old, adults 65 and over, pregnant women and those with chronic health conditions like heart and lung diseases and diabetes. All health care personnel are strongly urged to get the influenza vaccine.



Meanwhile, watch for flu symptoms including headache, high fever, a severe cough, runny nose or body aches.



The Okaloosa County Health Department provides the flu vaccine free of charge for children ages 6 months through 18 years. No appointment is necessary. Adults can find information on flu vaccine locations at http://flushot.healthmap.org.



PREVENT THE FLU



• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Lack a tissue? Cough or sneeze into your sleeve.



• Wash your hands often with soap and water. Practice an effective hand washing technique. See http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/ for details. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.



• Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.



• Avoid close contact with sick people.



• If you are sick with flu–like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, without using fever-reducing medicine, except to get medical care or for other necessities.



• Get revaccinated every year because flu viruses change annually.



Source: Florida Department of Health