Health authorities advise vaccination against flu
The health authorities are urging people to get influenza vaccination next month as seasonal flu has already begun to spread. Influenza usually becomes rampant in early winter through spring, but hospitals have already started seeing patients diagnosed with the flu, and the number has been increasing in recent years.
According to 2018 data from the Health Insurance Review and Assessment, there were 1.26 million influenza patients in December alone, up 61 percent from 782,000 a year before. Most infections usually occur in that month.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) urged people to get vaccinated by the end of November to protect themselves.
Starting Oct. 15, the KCDC is offering free flu shots to the elderly aged 65 or older, pregnant women, and children aged between six months and 12.
To prevent congestion at medical institutions offering the vaccine, people 65 and older will be able to get the shots from Oct. 22. The period of free vaccination at clinics is until Nov. 22, and afterward only regional public health centers will provide the free vaccination.
“It takes two weeks for the vaccination to take effect, and it is effective for six months. We recommend the public complete the vaccination at the end of November, as December is the peak season to get infected,” the KCDC said in a press release.
When visiting hospitals, people should take their ID card to check whether they are covered by the free vaccination program. Seniors and children need either an ID card or national health insurance card, and pregnant women need a mother’s notebook provided by ob/gyn clinics or other documents to prove their pregnancy.
“Flu vaccination is the most effective way to stay healthy during winter. Not only for the elderly, but also children under 12 are strongly recommended to get the vaccination,” Jeong Eunkyung, chief of the KCDC, said in a statement.
“Pregnant women are strongly encouraged to get the shot, because they are especially vulnerable to other complications including pneumonia. Other countries such as the U.S., Australia and the U.K. also advise pregnant women to vacate,” Jeong said.
Many pregnant women avoid vaccinations out of concerns that they may have side effects and harm the fetus. But doctors say they will be given virus inactivation vaccines but should consult with their doctors if they have a history of allergic reactions to shots.
There is a common misconception that a person who has caught flu before doesn’t have to get vaccinated as they have immunity from the flu virus. Although the person has been immunized, there are possibilities of catching other types of flu because there are a large number of different viruses.
Symptoms of flu
Flu usually seems like a common cold with a runny nose, sneezing and sore throat. Many people believe flu is a severe cold, but the two diseases are totally different.
While colds usually develop slowly, flus tend to come suddenly. Flu comes with a sudden high fever over 38 degrees Celsius, headaches, chills and sweats, and serious pain in the muscles and joints. A patients could die from developing complications in serious cases, so elderly people and young children who have compromised immune systems are especially vulnerable.
Adults with seasonal flu don’t usually vomit or have diarrhea, but children might.
Keep daily hygiene against infection
Vaccination cannot prevent the flu 100 percent, so maintaining daily hygiene is crucial to prevent viral transfer and infection. The virus can be transmitted by air or orally, but most cases are transmitted through hand contact or sharing tools with an infected person.
The KCDC, therefore, says maintaining hand hygiene is the easiest and important method to prevent infection.
“Washing hands is the easiest and most effective way to prevent various infectious disease,” Jeong said.
According to the disease control center, hand-washing can prevent about 30 percent of diarrhea and about 20 percent of occurrence of cold, influenza and other respiratory diseases. It is also especially important for people who have weak immune system.
Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce germs in most situations, but if soap and water are not available, using alcohol-based hand sanitizers is also recommended. Such sanitizers can reduce various germs on the hands quickly, but the KCDC said sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs and may not remove harmful chemicals.
A woman receives a vaccine against influenza at a hospital in Daegu, Tuesday. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) advised people to get vaccinated by the end of November.