Flu season has arrived, now that the first official case of the flu has been diagnosed in Cascade County.

On Tuesday, Director of Health Promotion at the Missoula City County Health Department Cindy Hotchkiss provided important information about the flu, its symptoms, treatment and, more importantly, its prevention.

"The first and most important thing is to get your flu shot," Hotchkiss said. "You can get it here at the health department, or there are several drugstores and clinics in the area that are providing flu shots, as well. The other thing that we always emphasize is to wash your hands frequently, cover your cough, and stay home if you get sick."

Hotchkiss describes how the flu vaccine works.

"The vaccination contains protection against three strains of the flu," she said. "They develop the vaccine based on what they are predicting the strains are going to be that are circulating. What that does, is it prompts your body to develop some immune cells, so that if you are exposed to the flu, you don't get sick from it."

Hotchkiss said it takes from a week to 10 days for the flu vaccine to take full effect.

If the worst happens, and the flu strikes, Hotchkiss reminds people that antibiotics are not effective once someone has the flu, so she encourages the patient to contact their health provider and get tested to make sure it is indeed the flu, then, to stay home, get plenty of rest and fluids and ride out the storm, until the patient recovers.

Hotchkiss described the symptoms typically involved when the flu virus strikes.

"The flu starts off feeling like a really bad cold," she said. "Then you develop a high fever, aches and pains in your joints, basically you feel like you've been hit by a truck. It's also most important that you just stay home, because you don't want to spread the virus to friends, fellow students and coworkers."

The best advice, Hotchkiss said is to "Wash your hands, cover your cough, stay home if you're sick, and get your flu shot."

Hotchkiss said there have been no confirmed cases of the flu reported in Missoula as of Tuesday, October 14.



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