Cough, fever, headache, muscle ache and overpowering fatigue that knocks you out.

All are symptoms of seasonal influenza. But you may not need someone to tell you that you have the flu.

“You’ll just know from how badly you feel,’’ said Lisa Caffery, infection prevention specialist with Genesis Health System. “And you’ll never want to experience it again.’’

Complications from seasonal influenza can kill. At highest risk are the youngest, the oldest and people with chronic conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD). Flu can also be more dangerous to anyone with a compromised immune system, like patients in cancer treatment, for example.

Each season of influenza can be kind of a guessing game about which strains will show up and how strong they will be, but Caffery said the best way to avoid it is with the protection of a flu shot every year.

“There are several things people can do to not get the flu, or spread the flu, but at the top of the prevention list is a flu shot every year,’’ Caffery said. “Now is the time.’’

Other suggestions from Caffery to prevent flu include good hand hygiene, cough hygiene and staying home if you have flu symptoms. You may need to see your primary care provider if you develop severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing.

Genesis Health System will provide 40,000 or more flu vaccinations through various locations and initiatives.

Flu-Free Quad Cities, now in its 11th year, provides free vaccinations to 9,000 or more elementary school students throughout the region.

Another 5,000 Genesis employees and volunteers are vaccinated.

Genesis also vaccinates patients who are discharged from the hospital.

Thousands more are vaccinated by Genesis Health Group, Genesis Occupational Health and Genesis Visiting Nurse Association.

The vaccinations also provide “herd immunity’’ for people who come into contact with those who have been vaccinated.

“When we have created a flu umbrella over the Quad-Cities through Flu-Free Quad Cities and other programs, we will have been truly successful," said Missy Gowey, executive director of the Genesis Health Services Foundation, which raises the funding for the elementary school program.

Even with a flu shot, you can still be struck by flu.

“We wish the vaccine was a 100 percent match every year and no one got the flu, but the vaccine is never perfect," Caffery said. “A flu shot is still the best protection and even if you still get the flu, the flu shot may shorten the time you have the virus and it may be a less severe case than if you haven’t had the vaccination at all."

Caffery said it is too early to know how active the upcoming flu season will be. If the Southern Hemisphere flu season is any indication, it will be an active season. Australia, where the season will be coming to an end soon, has been hit hard by flu over the past few months.

Australia’s Immunisation Coalition has reported 168,337 cases of influenza in 2017, compared to just less than 91,000 last year and 100,000 in 2015.

The season in the Southern Hemisphere has been dominated by the H3N2 strain, which tends to be more severe.

For more information and Quad Cities flu resources, visit www.genesishealth.com/flu

Craig Cooper is the Senior Communications Specialist for Genesis Health System.

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