Don’t Let This Uninvited Guest Crash Your Holidays

December 15, 2011 | 9:00am

You don’t need to shop for him. He does not need a present. He won’t be on your guest list, but he will show up at your holiday celebrations at work, with friends and at home.

Unfortunately, the flu seems to love the holidays. But County Health and Human Services Agency officials want you to know it is not too late to get vaccinated.

“As this holiday season brings families and friends together, give the gift of health. Get a flu shot,” said Wilma Wooten, M.D., M.P.H., County Public Health Officer. “The vaccine not only protects you, but also those around you, as well.”

So far this season, flu activity has been low, but that doesn’t mean you should delay your vaccination. The virus is usually most active in late December and early January.

The flu vaccine is available throughout the county at doctors’ offices and retail pharmacies. County public health centers have flu vaccine available for children and adults with no medical insurance. For a list of locations, visit www.sdiz.org or call 2-1-1.

This year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending that people 6 months and older get vaccinated.

According to the CDC, more than 170 million flu doses have been distributed across the country. The vaccine is especially recommended for people at higher risk of developing complications from the flu: pregnant women, children under 5, people 50 and older, those with chronic medical conditions and people in nursing homes or long-term care facilities.

Influenza sickens millions and contributes to the death of thousands of people every year. It’s estimated that an average of 30,000 individuals die nationwide every year from the flu.

In addition to getting vaccinated, there other things people can do to avoid getting the flu.

“Simple steps work to reduce your risk for the flu: wash your hands thoroughly and often, or use hand sanitizers; stay away from sick people; avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; and routinely clean commonly touched surfaces,” said Wooten. “Also, if you are sick, you should stay home and avoid contact with others.”