- By Dana Sparks
Influenza is Spreading Across the United States
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According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) most of the country is now experiencing high levels of influenza-like-illness. Mayo Clinic specialists are offering advice and dispelling some misconceptions about the influenza to help people stay healthy.
Here are some tips for avoiding illness:
- Wash your hands thoroughly and frequently with water and soap or alcohol-based hand sanitizer. This is particularly important before leaving the bathroom, eating or touching your face. A good rule of thumb is to wash your hands for 20 seconds, about as long as it takes to sing "Happy Birthday." Use a paper towel to shut off the faucet and open the door while in a public restroom. This will keep you from recontaminating your hands.
- Cover your cough with the crook of your elbow.
- Avoid others who are sick, and stay home from work or school if you are ill. Dr. Bhide recommends visiting the doctor if you are part of the high-risk group for flu or around someone who is at risk.
- Don't smoke.
- Keep your vaccines up to date. Aside from the seasonal flu shot, the most important vaccines include measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) and the relatively new Tdap, for tetanus, diphtheria and acellular pertussis (whooping cough).
Infectious Diseases expert Teresa Seville, M.D., Mayo Clinic in Arizona, says, "The vaccine is the best defense against flu and serious flu-related conditions, and because it's difficult to predict how and when the flu will strike, I recommend getting it as early as you can."
Vandana Bhide, M.D., internal medicine specialist at Mayo Clinic in Florida, advises everyone to consider a flu shot, particularly those at high risk for complications — individuals over the age of 65, pregnant women, children 6 months to two years, and individuals with chronic medical disorders or who are immune-compromised.
One of the most common myths about the flu is that the vaccine will cause the flu. "Although many people believe this, it is a myth," says Jennifer White, M.D., family medicine physician at Mayo Clinic Health System in Springfield, Minn. "Injectable flu vaccines are composed of portions of inactivated flu proteins, and it's impossible for them to cause the flu. Nasal spray vaccines have live, weakened flu organisms that can't multiply or cause disease."
Mayo Clinic Microbe Watch Flu Update — Mayo Clinic’s Division of Microbiology will be posting weekly updates throughout this year’s flu season. In this introductory video to the series, Dr. Matt Binnicker discusses the symptoms of the flu, the flu season, and what trends we are seeing nationally, in Minnesota and at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Look for a new update each week until the end of February. Key points from this week’s Microbe Watch Flu Update include:
- Influenza activity continues to be at very high levels throughout the country, including Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
- The vast majority of influenza cases, almost 98%, are due to influenza A, with the predominant strain of influenza being the 2009 H1N1 strain.
- Almost 99% of the strains tested this year have been found to be susceptible to antiviral medications.