Protecting Yourself from the Flu

I'm Jennifer Williamson. I'm an internal medicine physician with the Avera Group in Brookings. 

What Steps Minimize Flu Risk?
Practice good hygiene techniques, and by that I'm referring to the standard ones that we were taught growing up. Wash your hands, cover your cough, cover your sneeze, and preferably cover them with the bend of your elbow as opposed to the palms, which you're going to use to shake someone else's hand or touch a door post or touch a door knob. That kind of a thing. Remember now, it's caused by a virus. Respiratory virus is whenever we sneeze or cough they're ejected in millions from our respiratory passages. So people who are nearby, they will therefore unfortunately inhale the virus and be likely to become infected. That's how the chain of spread goes on. So practice good hygiene.

Why Should People Get Vaccinated?
People should get vaccinated against the flu because it's really the best chance of protection. Yes, your hygiene methods are good and well, but if you encounter someone who did not practice good hygiene methods and you were exposed to such an individual, meaning a person sneezed in your presence uncovered mouth and you too are exposed to the influenza virus, then having the vaccine on board is your best chance of protection. As I mentioned before, the vaccine is geared towards the most likely strains of influenza virus that you are likely to encounter in that flu season. 

When Should I Get Vaccinated?
We usually start vaccination towards the end of summer and the beginning of fall. That's usually the typical time that vaccination usually occurs. A time when you tend to see most people coming in with their colds and their sniffles. That's the time we usually recommend that you get vaccinated. 

Common Misconceptions About the Vaccine?
Common misconceptions are that the flu vaccine causes the flu. Second misconception is that people think  "Oh, I'm allergic to eggs so I won't take the vaccine."  And there are ways to get around this. 

Who is at Risk for Influenza?
Do not be of the misconception that it's only the flu, because culturally that's how we treat it. "It's only the flu." People do die from influenza, and thousands of people actually every year die from influenza because they are not protected. These people most common prone target group who usually succumb from this illness: people over the age of 65, chronic smokers who are unable to protect their airway because their airway is compromised by the effect of smoking, and persons with other comorbidities such as diabetes, chronic kidney disease. These are the people we want to recommend, COPD, definitely that you take the flu shot, because influenza, even though it's something you have grown up hearing all your life, is not just the flu. It can be fatal if you are not protected.