Don't Let the Flu Be the Gift You Give This Holiday Season

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! While we continue to social distance to keep loved ones safe and healthy this holiday season, many of us are also gearing up for a busy month filled with social gatherings, festivities and a visit from the jolly ol’ big guy.

But it’s not just Santa who comes to visit this time of year--each year like clockwork, flu season comes along. After nearly two years of missing social occasions with friends and family due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we’re all ready for some holiday cheer. To help ensure the flu isn’t the gift you give or receive, Southeast Georgia Health System and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are encouraging everyone to get a flu shot before partaking in holiday get-togethers.

This year, the CDC is highlighting the importance of the flu vaccine during National Influenza Vaccination Week, Dec. 5-11, by reminding people that even though the holiday season has begun, it’s not too late to get a flu vaccine.

Getting a flu shot is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones. Seasonal influenza spreads easily, with rapid transmission in crowded areas, such as schools, nursing homes, and large gatherings. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, droplets containing the virus are dispersed into the air, infecting those in close proximity who breathe the droplets in.

The virus can also be spread by hands contaminated with the influenza virus. People should cover their mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing, wash their hands frequently with antibacterial soap, and use hand sanitizer to prevent transmission.

Most people who get the flu will recover in several days to less than two weeks. But that’s not a reason to let your guard down, as the flu is much more than just a bad cold. It can result in serious health complications, such as pneumonia, bacterial infections, and hospitalizations. In some cases, the flu can even lead to death.

People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic conditions like asthma, diabetes, heart or lung disease, and those 65 years and older. Even if you are not at a higher risk of developing flu complications, anyone who gets the flu can pass it to someone at an increased risk of severe illness, including children younger than six months who are too young to get the flu vaccine.

If you have already been infected with the flu, you can still benefit from vaccination. Many different flu viruses spread during flu season, and the vaccine protects against four flu viruses.

In addition to the flu vaccine, if you have not yet received your COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends getting both. The agency advises that the COVID-19 vaccine and other vaccines can be administered without regard to timing. This includes simultaneous administration of COVID-19 vaccine and the influenza vaccine on the same day, as well as co-administration within 14 days.

Flu vaccinations are available at Southeast Georgia Physician Associates primary care, pediatric and pulmonary medicine physician practices. Don’t get too busy in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season to protect yourself and your loved ones. Call your physician’s office to schedule a flu vaccine!