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Q: What is the best defense against influenza?

Posted September 25, 2013 in Advice Column, Pleasant Hill

A: It’s that time of year… time to roll up your sleeves for your annual flu shot.  Influenza is a viral infection in the nose/throat/lungs. Typical symptoms include fever, body aches, chills, fatigue, dry cough, sore throat and headache. People at risk for complications of the flu (often pneumonia) are children, adults older than 50, pregnant women, people residing in nursing homes or residential facilities and those with chronic illnesses.

The best way to prevent the flu is by getting the flu vaccine annually.  It can be given at any time in the fall or even into the winter months.  The vaccine works by stimulating your body to make antibodies to the virus; it typically takes about two weeks for this to occur. The flu shot contains dead virus; the nasal spray form is a weakened live virus, but it is impossible to get the flu from the vaccine.  The CDC recommends that everyone older than 6 months get the flu vaccine this year. The only exceptions are those who have had an allergic reaction the flu shot in the past, people who have a history of Guillain-Barre syndrome attributed to the flu shot or those with a moderate or severe illness with a fever.

It is possible to still get the flu after being vaccinated, but it usually means the illness will be milder and the chance of complications is lessened.

Besides vaccination, it is wise to wash your hands frequently to avoid getting sick. Stay away from sick people when possible and stay home when you are ill.

Information from, provided by Sally Bennetti, PA-C, Mercy East Family Practice, 5900 E. University Ave., Suite 200, 643-2400.

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