Even those who have received the influenza vaccine, should still take precautions against the spread of illness.

Both influenza and a host of other viruses are active in Winneshiek County, according to Winneshiek County Public Health RN Nancy Sacquitne.

"Just because you have had the influenza vaccine, doesn't mean you can't still get the flu," explained Sacquitne.

Sacquitne said each year the makers of the vaccine "take a guess" about which flu strains are going around and they choose several strains to put into the vaccine.

"You can still get it. It can even be one of the strains in the vaccine. But being vaccinated should lessen the severity of the disease process," said Sacquitne.

The public health nurse reminds anyone who hasn't received the vaccine yet this season that it takes a full two weeks for the antibidodies to be developed to protect you against the influenza virus.

Symptoms of the flu include a fever over 100, headache, extreme fatigue and muscle aches.

"People need to remember influenza is an upper respiratory infection that can lead to other complications like pneumonia and bronchitis," said Sacquitne.

People suffering from an upper respiratory flu condition are usually contagious for up to 10 days after they experience their last symptoms.

Other illness

Sacquitne said during flu season there are also other viruses circulating, for which the flu vaccine is not effective.

"In our community, we're seeing vomiting and diarrhea that comes really quickly. Sometimes it's a stomach virus that comes from something you ate. In that case, it's typically the norovirus," said Sacquitne.

The most common symptoms of the norovirus are nausea with vomiting, diarrhea and cramps. People of all ages have these symptoms, but diarrhea is more common among adults and vomiting is more common in children.

Twenty-five to 50 percent of people infected with the norovirus experience headache, fever, chills and muscle aches. The illness usually lasts 24-48 hours. The symptoms may appear 12-48 hours after exposure to the virus, but the onset may range from 10-50 hours after exposure. People can pass the virus to others while sick, and up to 72 hours after diarrhea has stopped.

Preventing the spread

Sacquitne said whatever the symptoms, the best thing people can do to help others is to stay home if they don't feel well.

"The common symptoms of nausea, vomiting and diarrhea are hard on the elderly and hard on children," she said.

"And these viruses can live in your system, even if you're not feeling ill."

Sacquitne added one of the vehicles through which the norovirus is spread is through food preparation.

"If someone is not practicing good hand washing, these viruses will be spread through food ... even cooked food," she said.

The 3 Cs

Sacquitne reminds the public to be diligent about practicing the 3 Cs: Cover your cough, clean your hands and contain your germs.

"If you have a school play to go to, or you're thinking of visiting a loved one in a nursing home, if you don't feel well, don't go," she said.

For more information about community wellness, contact Winneshiek Public Health at 382-4662.