The flu can be a minor annoyance or a major health event. In either case, taking steps to avoid the virus is the best course of action.
Mary Jensen, epidemiology manager in the Twin Falls office of South Central Public Health District, said a few simple steps can reduce the spread of germs.
"Cover your cough, wash your hands often. If you're sick, stay home, and get the flu shot," she said. "Those are the four things you can do that will go far to prevent spreading illness in the community."
Ellen Schulz, pharmacist at Sav-On pharmacy in Hailey, said it's not too late to get a flu shot.
"Some people will get flu shots as late in the season as March," she said.
Others waited until even later last season, she said, depending on certain circumstances. People who travel to the Southern Hemisphere in our summer months might encounter the flu later; summer here is winter there.
Also, some flu strains are still active in summer.
"We saw flu going around this last summer," she said. "It was behaving very differently than what we've seen in the past."
Flu vaccines last less than a year, so getting one later in winter can extend protection into the summer months.
"We recommend people get them annually because the protection does start to wane," she said.
Schulz echoed Jensen's suggestions to avoid getting sick.
"The best way to avoid the flu is hygiene," she said. "Use sterilizing wipes at the store for shopping carts [as well as] hand sanitizers. Wash your hands and, of course, avoid people who are sick."
Dr. Dan Fairman, with St. Luke's Clinic, said commonly used supplements may provide little or no benefit.
"As far as 'boosting' your immune system, there is no known supplement or medicine that will reliably improve your resistance to infections," he said. "The most important thing you can do is exercise; cardiovascular exercise helps to stimulate your body's immunity to both viral and bacterial infections."
No one action can guarantee health, but precautions can boost one's odds of a flu-free year.
"The vaccine isn't 100 percent protection," Schulz said. "But it's the best thing we have for helping you avoid it, other than hygiene."
Rebecca Meany: firstname.lastname@example.org
Good to know:
What are signs/symptoms of the flu?
Influenza is a common infection. The signs/symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, headache, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches and weakness. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is uncommon in adults. Fever and severe muscle aches help distinguish influenza from cold virus infections.
What are possible complications?
Pneumonia, bronchitis, and sinus and ear infections are three examples of complications from flu. Most people who get influenza will recover in a few days to less than two weeks, but some people will develop severe complications, like pneumonia, which can be life-threatening and result in death. Very old patients and very young patients are at higher risk for complications.
Who is at risk for complications?
People 65 and older, people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes or heart disease), pregnant women and young children. It's especially important that the people at risk for complications get vaccinated.
Information provided by Dr. Dan Fairman, St. Luke's Clinic - Internal Medicine
Not all pharmacies have flu shots
Sav-On in the Albertsons store in Hailey and Valley Apothecary in Ketchum still have flu shots.
Karen's Family Pharmacy offered flu shots this year but it's exhausted its supply.
The Bellevue office of South Central District Health also is out of shots.
The Drug Store in Atkinsons' Market in Hailey did not offer flu shots this year but may next year.
Chateau Drug in Ketchum does not offer flu shots.