Courtesy of Mount Sinai Medical Center
Prevention & Treatment Against the Seasonal Influenza Virus
What is the best technique for washing my hands to avoid getting the flu?
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. It is recommended that when you wash your hands -- with soap and warm water -- that you wash for 15 to 20 seconds. When soap and water are not available, alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers may be used. If using gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. Other ways to prevent the spread of illness:
Take everyday actions to stay healthy.
Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other social distancing measures. These measures will continue to be important after a 2009 H1N1 vaccine is available because they can prevent the spread of other viruses that cause respiratory infections.
Vaccination is the best way to prevent influenza infection and its complications. This is the reason that Center for Disease Control, national health organizations, and healthcare providers intensively promote vaccination for seasonal influenza and for the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: SEASONAL FLU
What is seasonal flu?
The flu, is caused by influenza viruses, which infect the respiratory tract (i.e., the nose, throat, lungs). Unlike many other viral respiratory infections, such as the common cold, the flu can cause severe illness and life-threatening complications in many people. The best way to prevent seasonal flu is by getting a seasonal flu vaccination each year.
What are the symptoms of the flu?
Influenza is a respiratory illness. Symptoms of the flu include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea.
When is the flu season in the United States?
In the United States, the peak of flu season has occurred anywhere from late November through March.
How does the flu spread?
The main way that influenza viruses are thought to spread is from person to person in respiratory droplets of coughs and sneezes. This can happen when droplets from a cough or sneeze of an infected person are propelled through the air and deposited on the mouth or nose of people nearby.
How long is a person with flu virus contagious?
The period when an infected person is contagious depends on the age and health of the person. Studies show that most healthy adults may be able to infect others from 1 day prior to becoming sick and for 5-7 days after they first develop symptoms. Some young children and people with weakened immune systems may be contagious for longer than a week.
What should I do if I get sick?
If you get sick with flu-like symptoms this flu season, you should stay home and avoid contact with other people except to get medical care. The Center for Disease Control recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other things you have to do and no one else can do for you. You should stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings. Stay away from others as much as possible to keep from making them sick. If you must leave home, for example to get medical care, wear a facemask if you have one, or cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue. And wash your hands often to keep from spreading flu to others.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS: SEASONAL FLU VACCINE
The "flu shot" is an inactivated vaccine, containing killed virus. This year, there also is a 2009 H1N1 vaccine. This 2009 H1N1 vaccine is not intended to replace the seasonal flu vaccine – it is intended to be used along-side seasonal flu vaccine.
People who should get the seasonal vaccine each year are:
Does flu vaccine work right away?
No. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body and provide protection against influenza virus infection. In the meantime, you are still at risk for getting the flu. That's why it's better to get vaccinated early in the fall, before the flu season really gets under way.
Who Should Not Be Vaccinated?
There are some people who should not get a flu vaccine without first consulting a physician. These include:
Different side effects can be associated with the flu shot and the nasal spray. They begin soon after the shot and usually last 1 to 2 days. The viruses in the flu shot are killed (inactivated), so you cannot get the flu from a flu shot. Some minor side effects that could occur are: