Halloween may have brought us witches and goblins, but it also brought us a glimpse of scary things to come. As flu cases started trickling through in late October, instead of post-New Year, we couldn't have foreseen the current levels we are now witnessing. Instead of the start of season rolling through right now, we are at levels which usually aren't seen until mid-March, and that spells trouble.
Centers for Disease Control (CDC) officials are reporting this to be the earliest and deadliest start to the flu virus season in over a decade. They also report the rise in states recording flu activity to have gone up an alarming 25 percent since Christmas Eve to include 41 states with 18 child fatalities. And with this season’s departure not coming anytime soon, those numbers are sure to rise significantly. CDC estimates 200,000 people are hospitalized each year due to influenza infection and anywhere between 3,000 and 49,000 will die. If these numbers scare you, and you dread the crippling effects of the flu as much as most do, you should take every precaution available to avoid it.
New studies have shed light on the not so great news that influenza vaccines don't do as well as initially thought, however they still provide considerable protection. With over 300 rampant strands of influenza out there, scientists must guess on which combination of flu killers will work best in the upcoming season. Obviously our vaccine system needs improvement, but it's still the safest bet to get your flu shot.
Although numbers vary year to year, on average, the vaccine is 59 percent protective in adults 18-65, and nasal vaccines are 83 percent protective in children. Unfortunately, the effectiveness is at its worst for the group with the greatest severe infection risk – the elderly. The CDC stresses that the most precaution should be concentrated on the highest, most susceptible, risk groups: children, pregnant females, and the elderly.
Spreading it Forward
In states with high influenza rates, 70-80 percent of the coughs or sneezes we hear around us stem from the flu. Consequently, the virus travels thru the air onto banisters, computer keyboards, door handles, menus at the diner, and potentially breathed into our lungs. The flu virus can survive up to eight hours on hard surfaces such as metal or plastic – once touched it will likely spread to your nose and mouth. On average, we touch our faces 18 times an hour, thereby providing the virus a clear path to our lungs. Spots to fear at work? How about your water bottle, those elevator buttons, the coffee machine or the dreaded copier, which may all be coated with influenza germs.
The CDC strongly recommends keeping your hands clean after touching foreign objects especially during flu season. While hand washing with soap and water for 30 seconds is preferred, we know that option is not always practical, or available. The CDC also recommends the supplementary use of hand sanitizers and antimicrobial cleansers to ward off these deadly germs when washing with soap and water is not available.
Source: Purasol Laboratories LLC
Published with permission from RISMedia.