Here it comes – the flu season. The falling temperatures drive people indoors, making it easier for viruses and bacteria to spread and invade our immune systems. For most of us, the flu is an inconvenient and uncomfortable illness that leads to nausea, vomiting, and allover body aches. However, for those with a weak immune system, such as the elderly and other individuals with immune system issues, it can mean a trip to the hospital and possible death.
One of the best ways to protect ourselves and those around us is to get the vaccine. However, we should also keep in mind that some strains of the illness are not matching the type of vaccine that is available. Doctors and scientists do the best they can regarding the vaccine based on previous strains, but that doesn’t always mean they are right. And that certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t protect yourself by getting vaccinated. Keep in mind that there are basic common sense pieces of advice that you can also adhere to: being vigilant about handwashing and staying home while ill are two of the best things we can do to protect others.
This type of virus can mutate, leading to strains or subtypes that may be more deadly. One example of this is H3N2, which is a subtype of influenza type A. It is related to the swine flu that can make pigs sick. There have been over 300 cases of this strain reported in recent years. Of those cases, almost 20 have led to hospitalizations and there has been one reported death. Before we panic, we need to understand that the person who died was elderly and also did have underlying health conditions that compromised their immune system.
Being aware of the common illnesses that we may come into contact with is a good idea. But obsessing and panicking about them doesn’t do us any good. Instead, be proactive. Get vaccinated. Wash your hands often. Cover your mouth and nose when you cough. If you are symptomatic, especially if there’s a fever, stay home. Viral illnesses can be very contagious, but they can also be stopped by using common sense precautions.