The seasons are changing, kids are back in school and seasonal flu is upon us.
First and foremost, Dr. Jesse Hsieh, president of the South Bend Clinic, says it's important to understand what the flu is.
“Influenza is a respiratory illness so it's a terrible cough. People mistake that with a gastrointestinal illness. Vomiting, diarrhea, that's not the flu,” said Dr. Hsieh. “It's sudden and their entire body aches, their head hurts, they feel like they got run over by a truck, they have a high fever, 101 or higher and they have a constant horrible cough.”
So how do you prevent it? The Centers for Disease Control says the most important thing?
“The first step is to just get your flu vaccine, absolutely the number one way to not get the flu is get vaccinated for it,” Dr. Hsieh suggests.
He said everybody over six months old should get the shot.
The young and the elderly are most at risk. The flu kills 30,000 to 100,000 people in the U.S. each year.
The next most important thing is to follow mom's advice.
Wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze and key - don't touch your face.
“People always ask, how do you doctors not get sick. I don't think it's because we have some magic immunity,” Dr. Hsieh adds. “What you learn is you just never touch your face. You always wash your hands after shaking people's hands … that's how you get sick, you touch your eyes, touch your nose or put your hands on your face.”
And you might wonder how long the flu virus stays alive?
If you're sharing computers at work or touching doorknobs, you can plan on the germs being there for two to six hours.
“so that person could have come and gone and you can still come in contact with it,” the doctor says.
So if you don't have soap and water handy, alcohol based hand sanitizer is the next best thing and a good idea to toss into your child's back pack.
Also important in a day and age where people are afraid to miss work or school.
“Don't go to work or school when you're sick,” Dr. Hsieh urges. “In the long run, if you're a business or a school you realize by having somebody show up sick who is less than 100 percent efficiency, who has a potential to make everybody else their sick, your business absolutely loses out in the long run.”
And while the current flu vaccine was not developed for the much talked about swine flu, Dr. Hsieh says it will give you some protection from that and other flu viruses. And he says according to the c-d-c getting a shot will not give you the flu.
“You might still get sick but you won't get as sick,” he said.
The bottom line if you want to stay healthy this flu season. Take preventative measures and dr. Hsieh other than getting the vaccine he can't stress enough keeping your hands off your face.
“If everybody did that than everybody would be fine,” he added.
Sometimes it’s easier said than done.
And new this year and following part of a nationwide trend, Elkhart General Hospital and Memorial Hospital in South Bend believe it is such an important issue that they are requiring all employees to get the flu vaccine this year.
Greg Lasasso, the president of Elkhart General Hospital, says they told their staff that "safety is the core of what we do at beacon health system and we will always take appropriate steps to protect our patients and their families along with the wellbeing of our own staff."
Adding the requirement is endorsed by a number of weighty health organizations.
Memorial Hospital released a statement saying in part:
"We now require staff to follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines and get a flu vaccine each year as a condition of employment unless they have a physician’s medical exemption. We must do all we can to protect our patients from staff who could inadvertently transmit the flu to a patient whose immune system may be compromised."
Hospitals throughout the country now need to report their vaccination rates for Medicare and Medicaid services.
More information online:
Preventing The Flu: www.cdc.gov and www.flu.gov