KANSAS CITY, Kan., Dec. 21 While it may be too late topurchase certain must-have gifts this holiday season, there is still time toget that must-have flu shot. The World Health Organization (WHO) and NationalRespiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) have reported 708cases of influenza viruses since September 30, 2007, including the season'sfirst infant mortality. These numbers are projected to spike as we enter thepeak of flu season, mid-January through February.
"If you have not received a flu shot yet, get one now while there is stilltime for the vaccine to take hold and immunize," said William Barkman, M.D.,pulmonologist and Chief of Staff at the University of Kansas Hospital. "It'sthe best gift you can give to yourself," he said.
"The flu shot is absolutely the best precaution a person can take againstthe flu," according to Dr. Barkman. That's why each November for the past 13years the University of Kansas Hospital holds its annual Drive Thru Flu Shotprogram which provided 3,500 free flu shots to members of the Greater KansasCity community this year. "In addition to the flu shot, some old-fashionedcommon sense can help as well," Barkman added.
Here are ten suggestions for flu prevention and safety as we celebrate theholidays and brace for the virus's peak:
"Many people assume that they are just going to catch the flu and sufferthrough it, but that really doesn't have to be the case," Barkman said. "Get aflu shot and practice these simple tips for good health and happy holidays. Ifyou do feel the onset of flu symptoms, consult your physician."1. Get a flu shot: Anyone who wants to reduce his or her chances of getting the flu should get vaccinated. "It is even more important for those at high risk of having serious flu complications such as the elderly and immune deficient," explained Dr. Barkman. October or November is the best time to get vaccinated, but the shot will still be effective if you get it in December and later. Flu season can begin as early as October and last as late as May. 2. Wash hands frequently: "I cannot emphasize enough that hand washing is the single most effective way of preventing the spread of germs, not only flu but of countless diseases," Dr. Barkman said. Wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds or as long as it takes to sing "Jingle Bells" twice. 3. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze: Cough and sneeze into your elbow or tissue instead of your hand to help prevent the spread of germs from touch. 4. Don't share eating utensils or drinks: These are the most frequent ways to spread germs, especially at holiday parties where picking up someone else's plate or drink is common. Although someone might not be displaying the signs of the illness, they could still be carrying the virus. 5. Avoid kissing or hugging others who are ill: Avoid close contact with people who are sick. While it might be hard with so many relatives in town for the holidays, the flu is one thing you do not want to receive from loved ones. 6. Dress appropriately for the weather: Exposure to the elements can also mean exposure to germs. Put on those Christmas sweaters and Santa Claus hats! 7. Practice good health habits: Be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, eat nutritious food and get plenty of sleep. Dr. Barkman recommends at least seven hours a night for the average adult. 8. Cut eggnog consumption: Alcohol dehydrates the body and heavy alcohol use damages the body's liver, which is the body's primary filtering system. This means that germs leave the body more slowly. That leaves heavier drinkers more prone to initial infections. 9. Quit