Health au­thor­i­ties ad­vise vac­ci­na­tion against flu

The Korea Times - - HEALTH - By Bahk Eun-ji [email protected]­re­

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.

Cour­tesy of KCDC

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.

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