Just when you thought it was safe, the flu is back for a return engagement. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this second wave is a new, stronger strain and it is hitting the southeastern United States particularly hard. Georgia is one of 48 states and Puerto Rico experiencing high flu activity levels.
And the CDC predicts the flu could continue to wreak havoc into May.
Kennesaw State’s Assistant Professor of Biology Melanie Griffin offers five tips to help you avoid catching the flu.
1. Get a flu shot now. It’s not too late.
According to Griffin, who teaches several microbiology courses including medical microbiology, you still have time to be vaccinated against the flu. However, it takes two weeks after you get the shot for your body to build up its immunity, so don’t wait. Those most at risk are the very young, those over 65 and anyone suffering from a medical condition that could tax their immune system.
“The ‘Influenza A’ strain is still the dominant strain of the flu going around,” Griffin said. “We’re usually done with peak flu season in March, but it looks like we have several more weeks. Nationally, the flu is still widespread.”
“We’re usually done with peak flu season in March, but it looks like we have several more weeks. Nationally, the flu is still widespread.”Melanie Griffin, assistant professor of biology at Kennesaw State University
While you could get vaccinated and still catch the flu, you’re better off having the vaccine’s antibodies playing defense in your body.
“The vaccine can minimize influenzae for the most-at-risk groups, and this year’s vaccine was between 40 to 60 percent effective for all age groups,” she said. “The flu shot is never 100 percent effective and has been as low as 25 percent effective in previous years for certain age groups, but I would rather have 25 percent of Captain America’s shield than nothing at all!”
2. Wash your hands
Washing your hands often with soap and water can help you minimize your chances of catching the flu. Lather them for 20 seconds and dry them for 20 seconds. Or, use an alcohol-based hand rub. The key is to remove the flu germs before they can do their dirty work. During the 2017-2018 flu season, the CDC reports 49 million people got sick from the flu, including some 960,000 who had to be hospitalized. In all, the flu claimed 80,000 lives.
3. Avoid sick people (like the plague)
“The flu is very contagious. The virus is spread through the air, so you can catch it from someone who has the flu who may not cover their mouth when they sneeze or cough. The aerosols may also contaminate surfaces, so again, it is critical that you wash your hands often.”
4. Eat well
Foods rich in Vitamin D and Zinc (green vegetables, berries, and mushrooms and onions) are great for helping you keep your immune system strong and ready to play defense.
5. Stock up on sleep
About seven to eight hours should do it. It helps also with keeping a strong immune system.
Griffin said, “If you do get the flu, see your doctor immediately for antiviral medication, especially if you are in a risk group. Taking Tamiflu or Relenza could cut the flu’s severity. Once the clinical symptoms are present, stay home and rest. Not only do you allow your body to fight, but you will minimize public health risks.”