Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Vaccination, Disinfectants Important This Flu Season

(MS) -- By Dra. Aliza Lifshitz, Internist, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles

Perhaps no issue has made more headlines this year than the flu. At the core of those headlines is the 2009 H1N1 virus, otherwise known as swine flu virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hundreds of deaths have already been associated with the 2009 H1N1 virus, and the coming months figure to prove even more deadly as flu season approaches.

What's most troubling about the coming flu season, particularly for the nation's large Hispanic population, are the warnings that the season could prove to be the worst yet. According to the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, the coming flu season could pose a serious health threat. For Hispanics, that's especially concerning, as a recent Associated Press report noted Hispanics are four times more likely to be hospitalized as a result of the 2009 H1N1 virus. Despite that, a September 2009 poll conducted by Garcia Research indicates that 56 percent of Hispanic adults said they were "not concerned" about the flu. In addition, fewer than 4 in 10 indicated that they were "very likely" to get vaccinated for the seasonal flu.

Why Get a Flu Shot?

The flu is highly contagious, easily spreading from person to person, and can be especially harmful to children. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the "single best way to protect against the flu is to get vaccinated each year." The flu vaccine can prevent influenza among 70 to 90 percent of healthy adults by protecting against common types of flu viruses that are in circulation.

Who Needs a Flu Shot?

In general, anyone who wants to reduce their chances of getting the flu can and should get vaccinated. The CDC recommends that all children ages 6 months to 18 years be vaccinated. In addition, household caregivers -- including moms, dads, grandparents, nannies, and other child care providers -- should get vaccinated.

When Should You Get Vaccinated?

Yearly flu vaccination should begin in September or October before flu season peaks, but the flu shot can protect you even if you get vaccinated late in the flu season into December, January and beyond. While flu outbreaks can happen as early as October, flu activity typically peaks in January or later.

How Can Exposure

to the Flu Be Reduced?

In addition to getting vaccinated, there are myriad ways individuals can help prevent exposure to the flu virus.

* Sing and Scrub. Make sure kids wash their hands often. They should wash frequently with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds (the time it takes to sing the "Happy Birthday" song twice).

* Cough and sneeze into elbows, not hands. If they don't have a tissue, teach kids to cough and sneeze into the inside of their elbows. Coughing into hands is more likely to spread bacteria and viruses through touch.

* Disinfect Hot Spots. Kids and adults alike can touch many surfaces in a short period of time. To reduce risk of spreading the flu virus, disinfect hard surfaces as directed using an EPA registered product that is effective against the influenza A virus, such as Clorox(R) Clean-Up(R) Cleaner with Bleach and Clorox(R) Disinfecting Wipes, on commonly touched surfaces. Plastic children's toys, doorknobs, phones, computer keyboards, remote controls, and faucets can all be sources of the influenza virus, and an individual can still get infected 2-8 hours after the virus was initially deposited on the surface. So be sure to make disinfecting such areas a part of your daily household routine.

* Continue living a healthy lifestyle. Eating right, exercising and getting plenty of sleep help boost the body's ability to fight the effects of the flu viruses.

For more information about helping to protect yourself and your family during flu season, visit www.VidaySalud.com, www.cdc.gov/flu, www.clorox.com, www.Cloroxenespanol.com, or www.cdc.gov/flu/espanol.

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