It was great to talk to Dr. Hong about the flu this year, what to expect and where you can get your flu vaccination. Listen to the above interview for more info from Dr. Hong, and read below some important information.
1. Last year’s flu season was a severe one. What’s the outlook like for this season?
- · Every flu season is unique. We like to say that the only predictable thing about the flu is that it is unpredictable.
- · We usually look at Australia’s flu season, which is earlier than ours, as a measuring stick for what we can expect. Their season has been relatively mild, particularly in comparison to last year’s harsh season, but that doesn’t mean we should take the flu lightly. We should still take precautions against the flu because it will still spread. In fact, we already have six confirmed flu cases in Delaware, one which required hospitalization, so don’t think the mild season in Australia is a reason to skip your vaccine. The flu is dangerous and can even be deadly.
2. Are flu vaccines available yet and when is the best time to get vaccinated?
- · Since the flu vaccine takes up to two weeks to take full effect, we recommend getting the vaccine as soon as possible, preferably by the end of October, so now is a great time to get the vaccine.
- · Now, if you’re not sure when you can fit in your vaccine, you’re in luck, because DPH has two free large-scale flu vaccination clinics coming up. The first is at the Porter State Service Center this Friday, October 5th, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. The Porter Center is located at 509 West 8th Street in Wilmington. As an added incentive, the first 200 people to get their vaccines will receive a free gift card.
- · And we also have a drive-thru flu clinic next Tuesday, the 9th, at the DelDOT Administration Building in Dover. It is rain or shine. The address is 800 South Bay Road, and again, that’s in Dover. The drive-thru runs from 7 a.m. and is scheduled to go until 6 p.m., but we did have such an overwhelming response last year that we ran out of vaccine and had to close a few minutes early, so the sooner you can get there, the better. We’ll have interpreters in Spanish, Haitian Creole, French, and American Sign Language.
- · And both of the clinics are for people ages 9 and up. We’ll also have accommodations available for people needing additional help such as the visually impaired, or those in a wheelchair or with additional mobility issues.
- · If you can’t make one of those, there’s a list of free flu clinics on our website — flu dot Delaware dot gov.
- · Your primary physician should also be offering flu vaccines along with pharmacies and some grocery stores
- · Or you can Google “CDC flu finder” to see where the vaccine is being offered near your ZIP code.
3. Other than getting the flu vaccine, what can people do to avoid getting the flu?
- · The vaccine should be your first source of protection every season. The second is practicing social distancing, meaning if you become sick with the flu, you should stay away from others as much as possible. Stay home from work, school, and any other social gatherings. And you should avoid others who are sick with the flu until they’re well. What we mean by “well” is fever free — a temperature of less than 100 degrees without using fever-reducing medicines — for at least 24 hours.
- · Also, wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based sanitizers during cold and flu season.
- · Finally, you should cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. If you don’t have a tissue, sneeze or cough into your inner elbow because droplets from a sneeze can travel as far as six feet. And avoid touching your mouth, nose, or eyes.
4. Are there any people at a higher risk to catch the flu than others?
- · There are particularly vulnerable populations like the very young — especially children under six months old who are too young to be vaccinated — the elderly, and people with underlying health conditions like diabetes and asthma. That being said, the flu doesn’t discriminate, so everyone is at risk and it’s extremely important to know how to fight it.
- · If you know anyone in assisted living facilities, ask the staff whether they have been vaccinated. If they haven’t, ask them to wear masks to avoid spreading flu germs.
5. If you do become sick with the flu, what are some warning signs and what should your next steps be?
- · Flu symptoms usually come on fast, so you won’t see many warning signs, but symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches and body aches, chills, and fatigue. Some people get complications like pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections.
- · Over-the-counter medicines can help, but if you think you have the flu, call your doctor right away and see if he or she may be able to prescribe medicines called antivirals over the phone. If you are prescribed medication, take it exactly as prescribed. Everyone should take the flu seriously, but if you feel very sick or you’re pregnant or have other health concerns, you should take extra precautions.
- · Drink lots of clear liquids and stay well-hydrated.
- · Rest up. Again, avoid well people and stay home until your temperature is under 100 degrees.