It’s That Time Again: Steps to Prevent Spreading the Flu
Nov 18, 2014 08:58AM ● Published by Dia
By Dr. Josh Prickett, Medical Director, North Tarrant E-Care Emergency Center
While the recent Ebola scare dominated headlines in the Dallas area as well as the rest of the nation, the beginning of flu season was largely pushed aside by the media as an afterthought. But influenza is an extremely serious health threat as well, sending an average of 200,000 Americans to the hospital each year and killing anywhere from 3,000-49,000 people annually.
Get Your Flu Shot
There are, however, several steps people can take to help stop the spread of the flu. The most important one is getting a flu shot every year to protect yourself.
What we commonly call “the flu” is actually a disease made up of several different viruses that continually change, or mutate. Birds and other animals carry many types of strains that can often mutate and infect humans. The reason these are so serious is that humans have not developed immunity to them. As a result, these different forms of the virus can potentially cause a pandemic, or a disease that affects a large portion of the population spread over a wide geographic area.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), researchers identify three or four influenza viruses they believe will be the most prevalent. The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases then develops vaccines to attack these different strains before they become pandemics. They do this by injecting chicken eggs with strains that pose the biggest threat and then harvesting them to produce the vaccine. Once the vaccines are ready, medical professionals will be able to quickly respond to outbreaks.
The vaccine basically imitates the flu virus to help develop immunity in the person receiving the shot. While it can often result in minor discomfort such as a fever, it will usually not result in any illness. After the infection disappears, antibodies are produced that “remember” how to fight the disease, a process that usually takes a few weeks. While there’s a chance you could still get the flu in the time it takes these antibodies to form, getting a shot is still your best chance of avoiding the disease.
While it’s important that everyone receive a flu vaccine injection, it’s particularly crucial for those who are at higher risk of serious influenza complications, such as young children, people age 65 or older, women who are pregnant, and others who have chronic conditions such as heart disease, lung disease, asthma or diabetes.
Other Steps You Can Take
In addition to having your yearly flu shot, there are everyday things you can do to help prevent the spread of the disease. Here are some CDC recommendations:
· Avoid any close contact with someone who has caught the disease.
· If you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever has dissipated, unless symptoms are so severe you need to emergency center or a hospital.
· When you sneeze, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue, and then immediately throw the tissue away.
· Wash your hands often throughout the day with either an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. As much as you can, keep from touching your nose, mouth and eyes.
· Disinfect and clean objects and surfaces that could have been contaminated with influenza germs.
There are several different antiviral drugs you can take if you do catch the flu that come in the form of liquid, inhaled powder or pills. However, you can only get these by prescription. These drugs have proven to be effective in not only preventing serious complications but also shortening the duration of the illness. They also do a good job of reducing the severity of symptoms. Antiviral medications typically are most effective if you start them within two days of becoming ill.
You can keep track of the spread of the flu through several different websites. For example, the CDC provides weekly updates on the spread of influenza, as well as a map detailing the areas of the country where the disease is most prevalent. Staying as informed as possible and taking the right precautions will provide you the best chance of getting through flu season safe and healthy.
To get a flu shot or lean more about preventing the spread of influenza from doctors near Southlake, visit E-Care Emergency Centers for emergency or urgent care. Check in online or call 817-281-7277.
Josh Prickett, M.D., is currently medical director for the North Tarrant location of E-Care Emergency Center in North Richland Hills. Dr. Prickett graduated from the University of Oklahoma Medical School and has been practicing emergency care in Oklahoma, Minnesota and Texas since 1989. He has been married to his wife Carin for over 29 years. They have a son Jonathan, a daughter Whitney, and a son-in-law John. Dr. Prickett and his family are active in their local Church and love being a part of the Southlake community.