Because reports are showing flu season in Wyoming is getting active, the Wyoming Department of Health (WDH) wants residents to do what they can to avoid becoming ill with influenza or spreading it to others.
Reggie McClinton, an epidemiologist with WDH, said Wyoming’s overall flu activity is at a relatively low level currently but reports are showing significant increases in several local areas. “With national reports of flu activity already elevated and increasing, this is not surprising,” he said. “Several states are already reporting widespread activity.”
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.
Dr. Alexia Harrist, state health officer and state epidemiologist with WDH, said her key message is to get your flu vaccine as soon as possible if you haven’t already. “The shots take about two weeks to become effective so you don’t want to wait until everyone around you is ill,” she said.
“Every season we see serious illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths in Wyoming due to flu,” Harrist said. “Influenza should never be overlooked or accepted as a minor problem.”
“We want nearly everyone six months or older to get a seasonal flu vaccine,” Harrist said. “Flu shots are safe and important. They can help you avoid the flu, they reduce the spread of the virus and they can also help make illnesses less severe for those who do still get sick.”
Common-sense measures can also help slow or prevent influenza’s spread. “Staying home from work, school, daycare and errands when you are ill is key. Covering your mouth and nose with your sleeve or a tissue when you sneeze and cough and frequently washing your hands are also effective,” Harrist said.
Doctors may recommend prescription antiviral medications to help treat influenza. These medications may be especially helpful for persons at higher risk for flu complications such as young children, older adults, persons with chronic medical conditions, persons with challenged immune systems, pregnant women, 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.
“For antiviral medications to be a good option, it is important to seek medical care quickly,” Harrist said.