Five Flu Facts


CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden gets this year’s flu vaccine. Photo from www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals
  1. Getting the flu vaccine is strategic. Getting the annual flu vaccine is the single best thing you can do to prevent the flu.  The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu shot for everyone six months old and older.  Some folks are proudly posting their “vax” photos on the CDC’s website!  Follow on Twitter at #VaxWithMe.
  1. Flu can be complicated. Although most people who get the flu will have a mild illness, flu complications can include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus or ear infections and even death.  Those at high risk for flu-related complications include pregnant women; children younger than five, but especially children younger than two; people 65 years old and older; and people of any age with certain chronic medical conditions such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

Unsure as to whether you have the flu or the common cold?  This chart can help you decide.

  1. Timing is everything. According to CDC, flu activity usually peaks in January or later, but outbreaks can happen as early as October.  It takes about two weeks after being vaccinated for the body’s immune response to kick in fully. 

Planning holiday visits?  Take a look at the calendar and schedule your flu shot to make sure you arrive for holiday gatherings as fully protected as possible. 

For Frequently Touched Surfaces:

Clean surfaces first with detergent and water and then sanitize using 1 tablespoon of regular strength household bleach (5.25%) in 1 gallon of water.  If using concentrated bleach (8.25%), reduce bleach volume to 2 teaspoons per gallon of water. Let surfaces air dry.

  1. Prevention is key. The flu virus wants you!  Evade it by:
  • Avoiding close contact with people who are sick
  • Staying home when you are sick
  • Covering your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or cough into your sleeve
  • Washing your hands frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds
  • Keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces in your environment
  • Getting sufficient exercise, hydration, nutrition and rest
  1. A flu pandemic (a world-wide flu epidemic) would be another story altogether. Flu severity is unpredictable from year to year.  While it’s not expected this year, a flu pandemic is always a possibility.  To keep tabs on the flu, CDC provides a weekly flu surveillance report.  The website includes a handy “Flu Activity Map” to indicate the geographic spread of flu through the US.

To get an idea of how you could prepare for a pandemic flu outbreak, check out Dr. Ralph’s Flu Preparedness Closet.  Forewarned is forearmed!

Ralph Morris, MD, MPH, is a Physician and Preventive Medicine and Public Health official living in Bemidji, MN

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