ALLEN COUNTY, Ind. (WANE) – As a season often tainted by sickness is on the way, the Allen County Department of Health is working to keep the community healthy this time of year.

The department said in a release it is working with the state department of health to secure a new, preventative treatment for RSV in children. Although the antibody treatment is not yet available, the county department plans to offer it when it becomes available.

The department is reminding residents flu season typically starts in October and peaks between December and February. Indiana is currently experiencing minimal levels of influenza-like illness, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to the release, the contagious respiratory illness is caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat and sometimes the lungs. It affects about 8% of the U.S. population each year and can cause mild to severe illness and death, the department said. Viruses are spread mainly by droplets created when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk.

Common symptoms include fever or chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people – more often, children – experience vomiting and diarrhea, according to the release.

“Getting vaccinated each year is the best way to protect yourself and others from seasonal flu,” Allen County Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Gutwein said. “And other healthy habits like regular handwashing and covering your cough can help stop the spread of respiratory illnesses like the flu. It’s not too early – or too late – to get your flu shot.”

Vaccines for ages 6 months and older who meet eligibility requirements are available at the Department of Health Medical Annex. Appointments, which are encouraged, can be made by calling (260) 449-7504.

The department shared tips for preventing respiratory illnesses:

  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, also keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick. Staying away from work, school, errands in public, etc. will help prevent viruses from spreading.
  • Cover your cough. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or cloth when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
  • Wash your hands. Effective handwashing will help protect you and stop the spread of illnesses. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Doing so can spread germs.
  • Practice other healthy habits. Get plenty of sleep, be active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious foods.