Pikeville Medical Center (PMC) is encouraging the public to understand the importance of the dangers of influenza.

Influenza, commonly known as “the flu,” is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness or even death.

The Flu is a severe health threat, especially for vulnerable populations like older adults, younger children, and people living with chronic medical conditions. It’s essential for people living with and caring for high-risk persons, including those who work in long-term care, to take action and get vaccinated against influenza each year.

“Preparation is key in preventing most seasonal flu activity,” said Fadi Al Akhrass, MD, FACP, Medical Director of Infectious Diseases and Infection Control. “Getting vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your family against the flu.”

He says it is suggested to get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available each year, usually by October, to help reduce the effects of this potentially deadly disease. However, as long as flu viruses are circulating in the community, its not too late to get vaccinated.

“I recommend everyone six months of age and older to get the yearly flu vaccine as the first step in protecting against the flu,” said PMC Director of Infection Control, Nina Reynolds.

Flu can cause certain chronic health conditions, such as asthma, heart disease, or diabetes to worsen, and those patients are at higher risk. Any flu infection can carry a risk of serious complications, hospitalizations or death, even among otherwise healthy children and adults.

“The benefits outweigh the risks for vaccines,” added Reynolds.

She added that every day, preventative measures like hand washing and staying home from work or school while sick can reduce the spread of germs.

Everyday Preventive Actions to Fight the Flu

• Vaccination of high risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness

• People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with certain chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older

• Vaccination also is important for health care workers, and other people who live with or care for high risk people to keep from spreading flu to them

• Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for infants should be vaccinated instead

For more information about the flu, call 606-218-3500.