Roll Up Your Sleeves and Avoid the Flu
Thursday, October 13, 2011
October marks the beginning of flu season, and once again, health care professionals are exhorting people to get a flu shot. Microbiologist John Tudor, Ph.D., professor of biology at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia, agrees that it’s time to roll up our sleeves and offer up our arms for the vaccination.
“Getting the flu shot is still the best way to protect yourself and those close to you from contracting the virus,” Tudor says. “The 2011 vaccine is the same as last year and is designed to protect against three different influenza viruses, including H1N1, also known as Swine Flu, which caused a pandemic in 2009.”
Tudor cautions that even though the formula of the vaccine hasn’t changed, it is still necessary to get another shot for 2011. “There is no guarantee that protection from last year's vaccine will last through this current flu season,” Tudor explains.
While a new strain of Swine Flu has been reported – designated as the H3N2 virus – Tudor says that for now, there is no need to be concerned about its transmission. “So far, there have only been four cases reported, one in Indiana and three in Pennsylvania. All of the cases involved children who were exposed to pigs, or were exposed to other people who had contact with pigs. There is no evidence at this point of person-to-person transmission,” Tudor says.
Should that status change, Tudor says that the Centers for Disease Control would respond accordingly to try to limit transmission. “Though the current flu shot would not be protective against the new strain, there is evidence that the antiviral drugs available now, like Tamiflu, would be effective against this strain, should it begin to appear in the general population,” he notes.
In addition to getting vaccinated, Tudor offers the following advice to guard against coming down with the flu:
Viruses can easily be picked up on your hands from everyday objects like doorknobs and stair railings, so wash your hands often. Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth, which are the entry areas of viruses. When coughing or sneezing, use a tissue if possible; otherwise, cough or sneeze into your elbow/upper arm area. If you get sick, the best thing you can do for your friends and co-workers is to stay home and avoid spreading illness to others.