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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Duke Medicine: Flu preparedness

Posted November 15, 2010 8:33 p.m. EST

Given the serious health implications the flu can have on individuals, families, and our community, we recommend the following steps to stay well this fall and winter.

Understand the facts about the flu. Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. It is spread mainly from person to person through coughing or sneezing and, less commonly, by touching a contaminated surface.

Get a seasonal flu shot! The seasonal flu vaccine is the single best way to avoid getting the flu. It protects you and it also protects your family and others from getting the flu from you!

Duke clinics have already begun offering flu-shots this year, and the vaccine is readily available. By obtaining your flu vaccine well before the peak of flu season, you give your body the ability to build immunity to the flu before you are exposed. It takes about two weeks for your body to fully build its defenses after receiving the vaccine.

This year the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has modified its recommendations for influenza vaccination. Everyone over the age of six months should now be considered for the vaccine.

The following people are high-risk for severe influenza illness: pregnant women or nursing mothers, those with a chronic illness or compromised immune system, persons aged 65 years or older or children less than five years old, residents of long-term care facilities, and the obese.

Health care workers are charged with protecting the health of our community. They are particularly at risk for contracting the flu and should therefore be vaccinated. Know who is at high risk for severe influenza and who should receive a vaccine.

Wash your hands frequently. Frequent hand washing is a simple activity to avoid a multitude of infections -- including the seasonal flu and the common cold. Wash your hands well using soap and water; alcohol-based hand gels are a good alternative when you are away from a sink. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as these are the routes of entry for cold and flu viruses into the body.

For more information about the flu, check DukeHealth.org's flu resources page.