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US flu outbreak should serve as warning

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SINCE FLU virus strains are constantly changing, with new strains appearing regularly, a seasonal flu vaccine must also be formulated each year to keep up with these changes.

While cases of influenza have remained high and widespread across the United States, it is good to note the percentage of those testing positive for the highly infectious disease is now beginning to show decline.

According to the most recent data of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, overall activity is beginning to go down despite the fact that many parts of the United States are still seeing high—and in some parts—increasing levels of activity.

Half of those with confirmed flu cases—more than 5,000 already—are 65 years old and older although the 29 who already died from complications were children and teenagers.

Amid this development, Health Secretary Enrique Ona advised Filipinos to guard against the flu and watch out for its symptoms such as fever, sore throat and cough.

In fact, the Department of Health technical working group for influenza in the Philippines has recommended that flu vaccination be started early in the year, before the peak of the influenza season in our country starting in June or as soon as the new flu vaccines are made available to optimize patients’ protection.

Most important step

Dr. Ruby Dizon, medical director of Sanofi Pasteur, agreed stating that with or without increasing flu activity in other countries, getting vaccinated should always be recommended as this is the first and most important step in protecting against this serious disease.

“The single best way to protect against flu is to get vaccinated each year as this reduces the chances that one will get seasonal flu and lessens the chance that that person will spread the disease to others,” the doctor advised.

In an earlier announcement, Ona said young children, pregnant women, senior citizens and those with certain health conditions such as heart, kidney, or lung disease, can easily be seriously ill and suffer from pneumonia, the most common and, perhaps, the deadliest complication of flu.

Since flu virus strains are constantly changing, with new strains appearing regularly, Dizon explained that a seasonal flu vaccine must also be formulated each year to keep up with these changes.

The seasonal flu vaccine is  trivalent, that is updated each year based on which three flu virus strains are circulating, how they are spreading and how well current vaccine strains protect against newly identified strains.

This means, if one received a shot last year, there’s a possibility that it will no longer be effective against flu this season.

Basic hygiene routines

While getting vaccinated is an effective countermeasure against the flu, basic hygiene routines will stand anyone in good stead.

While it’s impossible to avoid contact with people who may be ill while at work, watching a movie or walking in the street, regular soap-and-water handwashing, alcohol-based hand rubs and taking the time to disinfect surfaces other people may have touched are all good ideas.

Also, covering one’s mouth and nose with a handkerchief or disposable tissue when coughing helps.

Make sure your immune system is alright by boosting your intake of fruit and vegetables, and considering to supplement your diet with vitamins B, C and zinc.


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