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Take preventative measures to avoid flu

POSTED January 29, 2013 4:36 p.m.
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The flu season this year got off to an early start, and its effects have been relatively severe. Hospital emergency rooms, urgent care centers and doctors' offices have been clogged. Some people are finding it difficult to get a flu shot as supplies are running short.

I have read conflicting accounts of the status of the flu situation. In one report, the assertion is that the season has peaked, and while that may be true in some parts of the country, it is not so in California. Keep in mind that this particular flu strain is both very virulent and severe. Official statements about the effectiveness of this season's flu shots suggest that they are a very good match for the kind of flu virus that is affecting the population. Members of the medical community I have consulted are telling a different story, suggesting that the flu shots are about 60 percent effective.

Regardless of the effectiveness of the flu shots, many people are opting to get them for themselves and their families. There is a large percentage (estimated at approximately 50 percent) of the population that choose not to get flu shots out of concern that it may increase the chances of getting sick, and yet others are concerned that the long-term effects are of flu shots are not known. I wonder about those things myself, but since I have so much interaction with people, I have been getting the flu shot each year hoping that it is the best course of action to protect myself. Anyone wondering about the safety or long-term effects of flu shots should conduct their own research. You will find a wealth of information about the subject on the Internet.

There is much a person can do to avoid getting sick from the flu, colds or other illnesses, but it takes some effort. The most important things are to eat well, drink lots of water, and get plenty of rest to maintain your body's defenses. Washing hands thoroughly with soap and water is important, and it helps to avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth or ears. Keep in mind that when an infected person sneezes, literally millions of live viruses are spread into the air in a fine mist. These viruses are then inhaled through the nose and mouth, but they can also land on a person's eyes. It may be impossible to avoid any exposure to flu and cold viruses, which is why it is so important to maintain a healthy immune system.

Elderly people, persons with diabetes, smokers, and others with compromised immune systems need to be particularly careful during the flu and cold season. And for these people, early intervention is possible. When symptoms of the flu or colds first present themselves, doctors may recommend anti-viral agents, such as Tamiflu, to short-circuit or reduce the amount of time and severity of the illness. To be sure, it is critical to consult a physician immediately upon feeling and illness symptoms.

It is only logical that people who have lots of interactions with others, or who work in close proximity to each other and who may be stressed and tired with a weakened immune system will be prone to getting sick. I can assure you that the flu and cold viruses going around this season are making people very sick. At the same time, the medical community is stressed because of the patient overload, so wait times for treatment can be extended. The time is now to take preventative measures and try to stay away from sick people.
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