Editor's note: Due to a recent CDC report of an early and vigorous start to the flu season and a circulation problem with the edition in which this article ran we are rerunning this article from Nov. 21.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) the single best way to protect against the influenza virus is to get vaccinated each and every year. Influenza remains a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death.
It's important to keep in mind that even healthy people can get very sick from influenza and can spread it to others.
Did you know people with the influenza virus can spread it to others from up to about 6 feet away? Most experts think that influenza viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze and talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.
Less often, a person might also get influenza by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.
Before you are unknowingly exposed to those carrying the influenza virus, get vaccinated! When vaccinated with the (inactivated) flu shot, it may take up to two weeks for your body to make enough antibodies to fight off an exposure to the influenza virus. So, when it comes to getting your seasonal influenza vaccination, think the earlier the better.
Should I encourage others to get vaccinated?
Yes, the concept of herd immunity is the foundation for all vaccinations.
Herd immunity is defined as having a significant portion of a population, usually at least 80 percent, that is immune to a disease.
Whether it is because they have been vaccinated or already encountered the illness and built their own natural immunity, they provide protection to others who are not immune because the illness has little chance of spreading in the population.
What else can I do to protect against influenza?
For more key facts about this season's influenza vaccine please visit the CDC's web page at: