Preventing the Flu

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Flu virus in 3D

Every week during flu season, the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) publishes an influenza surveillance update on its website. Figures are based on reports from health care providers, emergency departments, hospitals, vital records departments, and laboratories around the state. Reporting for the 2011-2012 flu season began the middle of October and so far, it has been a light flu season. Nationally, it’s the same situation, but quickly, knock on wood!

Realizing I need a little more than good luck to protect me, I finally got my flu shot yesterday, courtesy of VNA Home Health and Hospice. VNA nurses held a flu shot clinic at the Healthcare EXPO, which was sponsored by MaineToday Media and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care. I thought the EXPO was excellent, by the way.

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Getting my flu shot

Laurie Bagley, RN, a VNA community wellness nurse told me this year’s vaccine is the same mix as last year. According to the CDC it contains two influenza A viruses —  H1N1 and H3N2 and an influenza B virus. The CDC recommends that everyone six months and older get a flu vaccine every flu season. Its website contains a lot of good information about the risks and benefits of flu shots.

The flu season may be light in Maine so far, but Laurie says cases have been reported. “We’ve had flu in the Portland area for one month. It was very highly contagious, the one that started, but they contained it very quickly. It seems that everyone who was exposed to this one person caught it. But they used a lot of the antivirals and stopped it.”

I asked Laurie what she considered best practices for preventing the flu, aside from getting a flu shot. Her answer: “Hand washing, hand washing, hand washing. And cough into that elbow. Cover that cough so you’ re not spreading it.”

If you or your kids ever watched Romper Room with Miss Nancy, you may have seen The Sneeze: How Germs Spread. I found it on YouTube and decided to include it here because if nothing else, it should give you a laugh.