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Purdue health expert says it's not too late to get a flu shot
The Truth - 2/12/2018
Feb. 12--WEST LAFAYETTE -- Around the corner or around the country, everywhere you look it seems like there's a story about the flu right now. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 of 50 states are reporting widespread flu activity, and as has been widely discussed, some cases have led to death.
Elizabeth Richards, assistant professor in the Purdue University School of Nursing, says it is not too late to get vaccinated and take steps to keep yourself, and those around you, healthy.
"The most important message is to get vaccinated," Richards said. "When more people get vaccinated against the flu, it's more difficult for the virus to spread through that community."
The CDC recommends annual influenza vaccinations for everyone 6 months and older, and Richards says parents of young children need to heed that recommendation.
"Children are better transmitters of influenza to others than adults, so to have decreased probability of being exposed to influenza in the community, it helps to have high rates of immunization among children," she said. "Many people say the vaccine isn't very effective this year so they aren't going to bother getting it. However, this is not the mindset to have. The most common vaccine protects against three different strains of the virus. Even if you do get influenza after being vaccinated, the vaccine can help lessen the severity of your flu and also protects you against some of the serious flu-complications."
In addition to vaccination, Richards says simple steps like hand washing, not touching eyes, nose and mouth to avoid the spread of germs, eating and sleeping well and getting regular exercise can all help keep the virus away.
Avoiding crowds, if possible, can be a way to limit exposure to the virus, as can wiping down surfaces and objects that are regularly touched.
"If someone in your household does get the flu, similar precautions should be taken. In addition, the ill person should limit their contact with others as much as possible. This includes changing sleeping arrangements if able"
Richards also points out that while both can be debilitating, influenza is different from the stomach affliction that is widely called "the flu."
"Stomach flu happens when your stomach and intestines become inflamed and irritated. Causes range from bacteria, viruses, and parasites to food reactions and unclean water," she said.
"Influenza comes with symptoms like fever, congestion, muscle aches, and fatigue caused by the influenza virus. More severe cases can lead to life-threatening illnesses like pneumonia or serious complications like inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle (myositis, rhabdomyolysis) tissues, and multi-organ failure (for example, respiratory and kidney failure). Flu virus infection of the respiratory tract can trigger an extreme inflammatory response in the body and can lead to full body infection (sepsis), which shows why it's so important to get vaccinated."
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