By Senator Patty Ritchie
Like many people, the holidays are my favorite time of the year. From Christmas parties and holiday dinners, to shopping for the perfect gifts and watching the ball drop on New Year’s Eve, there are so many opportunities to spend time with the people who mean the most to us.
But amongst the hustle and bustle, there’s an unwelcome guest that’s arriving early this year: the flu. According to health officials, this year’s flu season has begun especially early, with activity up significantly across the nation.
Central and Northern New York are no exception. Jefferson County Public Health recently reported more than 300 confirmed cases of influenza in the county since mid-October. During last year’s flu season—which runs from October through May—a total of only 57 cases were reported, and the first confirmed case wasn’t reported until March.
In Oswego County, where they typically don’t see any cases of the flu until February, public health officials say they have had nearly 30 confirmed cases so far.
St. Lawrence County has only reported several confirmed cases; but officials are still urging people to take the necessary precautions to stay healthy.
So how do you protect yourself from the flu? Here are some tips:
Get vaccinated: Health officials urge that everyone 6 months of age and older receive a yearly influenza vaccination. Hundreds of seniors got a jump-start by getting vaccinated at my recent Senior Health and Wellness Fairs, held in Oswego, Jefferson and St. Lawrence counties. If you still need your shot, vaccines are available at area pharmacies or from your healthcare provider.
Stop the spread: If you’re feeling ill and have influenza symptoms (a fever greater than 100 degrees, sore throat, runny nose/nasal congestion, cough) stay home. Also, it goes without saying that you should make a conscious effort to stay away from those who are sick.
Wash your hands often: Be sure to wash your hands with soap and water frequently, especially after coughing or sneezing. Alcohol-based sanitizers are also a great way to protect against illness.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth: This is a very common way for germs to spread. One exception, don’t forget to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
Practice good health: Be sure to get plenty of rest, exercise regularly, drink plenty of fluids and eat healthy, nutritious foods.
It’s easy to get caught up in the craziness of the holidays, but don’t forget to put your health first.
If you haven’t already, I urge you to get your flu shot and to follow the guidelines for staying healthy.
Best wishes to you and your family for a happy and healthy holiday season.