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Happy, Healthy Holidays

Happy, Healthy Holidays

Author: Polly Carver-Kimm/Thursday, December 15, 2016/Categories: IDPH News, Infectious Disease Prevention, General Health

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The Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) reminds Iowans that vaccinations and healthy behaviors are the best ways to prevent the spread of illness during this holiday season. “There is still time to get a flu vaccination to offer protection over the holidays,” said IDPH Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. “As people gather for meals and parties, or travel by planes and automobiles, they’re more likely to spread illness around. Receiving the flu vaccine will help you stay healthy to enjoy all the festivities, and will also keep you from making others sick.”

This is especially important during family gatherings that infants, those with chronic diseases, or elderly individuals might attend. Infants younger than 6 months of age are not old enough to receive the influenza vaccine, so they are at a higher risk of catching the flu from someone else and they have the highest chance of being hospitalized if they get ill. If you are ill with flu-like symptoms during the holidays, you need to stay home and away from others.

The flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. While the flu vaccine is the best defense against getting influenza, it’s also important to take personal actions to help prevent the spread of illness. Remember the 3Cs: Cover your coughs and sneezes; Clean your hands frequently; and Contain germs by staying home when ill.

Influenza is a serious respiratory illness. It comes on suddenly and symptoms may include fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, and body aches. Illness typically lasts two to seven days, and often puts healthy people in bed for days. Influenza may cause severe illness or even death in people such as the very young or very old, or those who have underlying health conditions.

Food-borne illnesses like norovirus or Shigella are also an increased concern during the holidays. "Anyone with diarrhea or vomiting should not be handling any food items, regardless of how well they wash their hands," said Quinlisk. "That rule is important whether you’re cooking for two or 200, whether it’s a regular family meal or at a restaurant." Anyone with diarrhea should stay home from school, daycare, work or other events to help stop the spread to others. It’s also important that anyone who has been recently sick with diarrhea not prepare food for others, since you can still spread these illnesses even after you start feeling better.

Symptoms of both norovirus and Shigella illness include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and low-grade fever. If ill, the most important thing to do is stay home and keep drinking fluids.

For more information on influenza, visit http://idph.iowa.gov/influenza. For more about foodborne illnesses, see http://idph.iowa.gov/cade/foodborne-illness.

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