NEWBURYPORT — Federal health officials have now added Massachusetts to the list of states in which the flu is considered to be widespread. In the Northeast the incidence of flu typically peaks in January or later, and to date there have been nearly 860 cases statewide in Massachusetts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the H1N1 strain, also known as swine flu, has been reported most frequently so far this season. It is important to note, however, that it is still early to predict which strain will be the most widespread this year.
The current flu vaccine does protect against the H1N1 strain, and health officials recommend the annual influenza vaccine for everyone 6 months and older.
It is not too late to get immunized against the flu, and shots are still available at the Newburyport Health Department by appointment every Tuesday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call the Health Department at 978-465-4410. These vaccines are offered free of charge to Newburyport residents age 4 and older, regardless of health insurance status.
What residents can do
The CDC recommends getting a flu shot every year a s the most important first step in protecting against flu viruses.
Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of flu.
Try to avoid close contact with sick people as best you can. Close contact, such as a handshake, can spread the flu virus.
If you are sick with a flu-like illness (fever over 100F and cough and/or sore throat), the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone (without the use of fever reducing medication) except to get medical care or necessities.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. This is how germs tend to spread.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. Use hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available.
Clean surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs. Be sure to pay close attention to cleaning commonly touched surfaces such as TV remotes, refrigerator handles and phones.
(Sources: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm, CDC Flu Weekly Summary & CDC Health Alert Network Advisory 2013-2014 Influenza Season Notice to Clinicians.)