Dear Doc: Tips for staying healthy during flu season
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado This is the season of creepy crawling terrors, monsters lurking around every corner and things that go bump in the night. Halloween is meant to spark our imaginations and scintillate our senses with the unexpected. Perhaps there are things out there of which we should be truly afraid …It makes not a sound, but creeps up on you in broad daylight.It can strike people without warning, especially the unprepared.It afflicts all without prejudice, but especially seeks out the young, elderly and most frail.By the time you recognize the attack, it may be too late.The most cunning of predators, it will turn you into its unwitting ally.Once struck, the only defense is the tincture of time.What is it? The flu, of course!The story is true; the flu rapidly passes from person to person with nothing more than a touch or deep breath. It will infect you 7 to 10 days before you even feel the first symptoms. Even more sinister, you can spread the flu to someone else a full day before feeling ill. It is a smart virus with the ability to mutate into a new form ready to penetrate the defenses your natural immunity has already developed. Equally concerning, the antiviral medications helpful only or three years ago for those infected already seem to be losing effectiveness as resistance has developed.The best defense then is a good offense, so be prepared and get your flu shot! The use of influenza antiviral medications is not a substitute for vaccination. However, clinical trial data indicates that antiviral medications are effective for the prevention and control of influenza, and use of these medications is important to consider in certain circumstances, according to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and prevention). People who should consider taking the medications include high risk people who received a vaccine within two weeks of a flu outbreak (the vaccine takes two weeks to be fully effective); people with immune deficiencies; and people who shouldnt get the vaccine for whatever reason. Widespread use of these anti flu medications is not recommended because of the concern for the development of further resistance.It is essential then, that if you are unfortunate enough to get the flu (5 to 20 percent of unvaccinated people will) that you minimize your contact to those susceptible or at risk. Here are some recommendations from the Eagle County Health Department: Wash your hands! That means frequently and well. After you cough or sneeze, before and after eating or after coming directly into contact with others, and of course after using the bathroom. Wash with antibacterial soap if your hands are physically contaminated or dirty, or before eating and after using the bathroom. Waterless hand sanitizer is fine to use after casual contact. Cover your cough or sneeze! Stay home if possible. Remember that you are contagious for a day before symptoms begin and five days afterwards. Be especially careful around those at highest risk of complications from the flu. Those people include the very young (under age 2), the elderly, those with chronic diseases and of course people in the hospital.Heather Gilmartin, nurse epidemiologist at Vail Valley Medical Center, recommends visitors to the hospital follow the following rules: Patients can have only two visitors at a time. This includes parents and grandparents in the Women & Childrens department.Children 12 years of age and younger may NOT visit patients or be on these units. Children in waiting areas must be supervised at all times.Absolutely no visitors with fevers, coughs or respiratory symptoms are allowed to visit patients.Trish Cerise, a nurse and the infection control specialist at Valley View Hospital in Glenwood, said that if you have a cough, fever or diarrhea, you should not visit anyone in the hospital. The nursing staff may informally screen visitors and children and anyone that appears ill may be asked to leave. If a major flu outbreak affects our area (pandemic flu) then specific restrictions may need to be put in place and visitors will be informed at that time.Sharing is a wonderful thing most of the time. There are certain things we shouldnt share however, and infection is one of them. On the contrary, sharing in our Democratic process by getting out and voting is perhaps one of the most important things we can do. I hope you make good sharing choices, and get to wear your I voted sticker today!Please keep your questions coming in! The only bad question is the unanswered one. Let me know whats on your mind at email@example.com.
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