Warmer weather may be lingering, but don’t let the milder temperatures fool you. Fall and flu season are closing in.
Robert D. Bradshaw, MD, MPH, Associate Professor of EVMS Family and Community Medicine, says it’s important to get your shot early since flu season is unpredictable and can run from October through May.
“The best way to guard yourself against the flu is to get vaccinated,” Dr. Bradshaw says.
And having gotten one last year doesn’t count.
A flu vaccine is needed annually because flu viruses are constantly changing. Each year’s vaccination is formulated to help keep up with those changes, Dr. Bradshaw says.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this year's annual flu shot will offer protection against the H1N1 flu virus, plus two other influenza viruses that are expected to be in circulation this year. Some doctor’s offices and pharmacies are also offering a vaccine that protects against four strains of the virus as well as a high-dose flu vaccine for adults age 65 and older.
The CDC recommends that all people 6 months and older be vaccinated against the flu.
Dr. Bradshaw says infectious disease experts are not recommending the use of the nasal spray — a popular shot alternative for children — because recent studies show it's not effective in preventing the flu.
And since contracting the flu can happen easily through person-to-person contact, or even by touching a germy doorknob or elevator button, vaccination is a strong first line of defense.
Unfortunately, only about 45 percent of the U.S. population got vaccinated against the virus last year. That’s why even if flu has started circulating in your school or workplace, Dr. Bradshaw says, getting the vaccine after flu season starts is still better than not getting it at all.
In addition to a flu shot, there are some easy ways you can protect yourself from the flu and other viruses.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water.
- Use an alcohol-based sanitizer.
- Cough into your elbow, not your hands.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth whenever possible.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is sick.
- Stay home when you are sick so you don't infect others.
- Avoid close contact with those who are sick.
Dr. Bradshaw practices at EVMS Portsmouth Family Medicine. To make an appointment, call 757.397.6344 or visit EVMS Family and Community Medicine online.