KINGMAN - Along with the holiday season comes flu season.
The Arizona Department of Health Services has already received 47 reports of confirmed flu cases for the season. The first confirmed case was Sept. 28. So far, Maricopa County has the most reported cases at 18. Mohave County does not have any confirmed cases of the disease at this time.
Last year's H1N1 flu virus may make a comeback, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms of the flu can include: a high fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, a runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.
According to the CDC, complications from the flu can include: bacterial pneumonia, ear infection, sinus infection, dehydration, and the worsening of chronic conditions such as congestive heart failure, asthma or diabetes.
The virus is spread by coughing and sneezing. People carrying the virus can infect someone one day before presenting symptoms and up to five days after becoming sick.
The best way to protect yourself is to get an annual flu vaccine. This year's vaccine will protect against the H1N1 virus and two other strains of the flu virus that appear to be circulating worldwide.
The CDC is recommending that all people over the age of 6 months get the vaccine, which is new this year. The CDC typically asks that those most at risk from serious health complications from the flu, such as the elderly and very young, get the vaccine before it is made available to the rest of the public. This year, the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended a universal approach to protect as many people as possible, especially since so many people in the 19 to 49 age group were effected by the H1N1 virus last year.
The vaccine is available in two forms, a shot or a nasal spray. The CDC recommends the shot for anyone over the age of 6 months. The nasal spray is recommended for anyone between the ages of 2 to 49 years old who is not pregnant.
Stores such as Walgreen's, CVS and the pharmacies inside Smith's, Safeway and Kmart typically offer the vaccine for a limited time. It is also available at your doctor's office. You can locate a place offering the vaccine by visiting www.google.org/flushot or www.flu.gov/widgets/vaccinelocator.html.
The best time to get the vaccine is in October and November, but it is still effective in December and January since the flu season can linger into mid-May, according to the CDC.
The CDC does not recommend people who have a severe allergy to eggs or who have had a previous reaction to the flu vaccine get this year's vaccine. People who are already sick with a fever should not get the vaccine until their symptoms subside.
The CDC also doesn't recommend the vaccine for people who developed Guillain-Barre Syndrome six months after receiving a previous flu vaccine. Guillain-Barre Syndrome is an auto-immune disease that affects the central nervous system.
People who received the H1N1 vaccine last year will need to get another vaccine this year because this year's vaccine includes two strains of the flu virus that were not in the H1N1 vaccine or the 2009 seasonal vaccine, according to the CDC. It typically takes about two weeks for the antibodies from the vaccine to develop in the body.
If you do get sick, the best thing to do is stay home, according to the CDC. People sick with the flu should drink plenty of non-caffeinated liquids, use acetaminophen or ibuprofen for aches and pains, wash their hands frequently, avoid getting too close to people, and cover their mouth and nose when they sneeze or cough.
According to the CDC, you should see a doctor if you have a fever over 101 that lasts for more than three or four days, if you experience extreme dizziness, or if you are unable to drink fluids for more than 24 hours. Small children who are not wetting their diaper on a regular basis should also see a doctor.
An emergency room visit is in order, according to the CDC, if a person is having trouble breathing, is confused or having seizures.
There are anti-viral drugs that can help treat the flu symptoms. See your doctor for a prescription or any concerns you may have about the flu or flu vaccine.