‘Falling’ into Flu Prevention

Author: Caitlin Stowe MPH, CPH, CIC,

Categories: Clinical Pathogens/Alerts October 27, 2017

Bonfires, pumpkin patches, and football are some of the fun activities that come to my mind when someone mentions the word, “fall”. And, while getting a flu shot is definitely not on the list of fun things to do, it definitely is one of the most important preventive measures we can take this time of year. According to the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), while “seasonal influenza (flu) viruses can be detected year-round in the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter.”

So, what is the ‘flu’?

Influenza, or “the flu”, is caused by the Influenza virus. There are two strains that normally cause disease in humans: Influenza A and Influenza B, both spread through the air or by touching contaminated surfaces. Symptoms of the flu are fairly generic, but commonly include fever, runny nose, cough, muscle aches, headache and tiredness. Symptoms usually start about two days after exposure, and most people will recover from their illness in less than a week. There are antivirals, such as oseltamivir, that if taken within two days of symptom onset, can reduce the length of illness.

How can I help prevent it from spreading?

1) Vaccinate: According to the CDC, the Influenza vaccine is the best way you can protect yourself from the flu. It is recommended that anyone over the age of 6 months, who does not have any contraindications, receive the vaccine. This flu season, there are two types of vaccinations available – one that contains three strains of the Influenza virus (called Trivalent), and one that contains the above mentioned three strains, plus an extra Influenza B strain (called Quadrivalent)1

2) Respiratory, Environmental and Hand Hygiene: In addition to getting the flu shot, there are effective strategies to keep the flu from spreading.

  • Respiratory hygiene:
    • Simple and effective: Ensure that any time you cough or sneeze you “do it in your sleeve” to help you keep germs contained2.
  • Environmental hygiene:
    • The Influenza virus is an enveloped virus, which means it’s fairly easy to kill if you use the appropriate product.
    • Disinfect high-touch surfaces that may be contaminated with the virus, such as blood pressure cuffs, thermometers, wheelchairs, stethoscopes, tables, and examination tables, with an EPA-registered, hospital-grade disinfectant with approved efficacy claims against the Influenza virus.
  • Hand hygiene:
    • The most basic element of infection prevention for preventing the transmission of Influenza
    • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.3

Using the above strategies, in conjunction with receiving the vaccine, will help keep you and everyone around you as healthy (as possible), allowing you to enjoy the fall season to its fullest.

 

Caitlin Stowe PDI Clinical Research Manager Caitlin Stowe MPH, CPH, CIC,

Caitlin Stowe currently serves as the clinical affairs research manager for PDI Healthcare. She has worked in the healthcare industry for over 15 years and has specialized in infection prevention for 10 years, working in a variety of infection prevention settings and roles. Caitlin has served on various local and state APIC chapters, as well as guest lectured for various universities. She also lectures on infection prevention practices and emerging infectious diseases on a local and state basis, and currently is an adjunct faculty member at South College. Caitlin obtained a Bachelor of Science from the University of Central Florida, and a Master’s in Public Health, with a concentration in Global Communicable Disease, from the University of South Florida. She is currently a doctoral student at Nova Southeastern University, and is board certified in Infection Control, Public Health, and Health Quality.

1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention:https://www.cdc.gov/flu/professionals/acip/index.htm

2. Cornell University Emergency Preparedness:http://emergencypreparedness.cce.cornell.edu/disease/Pages/DoItInYourSleeves.aspx

3. Center for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/flu/consumer/prevention.htm