Your best 'shot' at avoiding the flu
New and complex strains of influenza are discovered each year. Some are easily treated, while others are more dangerous. In April, a fatal strain of influenza was detected, causing a worldwide pandemic alert. Originally called "swine flu" because the virus genes were similar to ones that infect pigs, the new virus is now named the "novel H1N1 virus."
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In response to the novel H1N1 virus, Virtua has formulated guidelines that are consistent with precautions established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The guidelines have been created to protect the health of Virtua's patients, visitors and employee.
Just like other forms of influenza, the novel H1N1 virus is contagious and is spreading in the same manner from human to human. Flu viruses typically spread through coughing or sneezing. Sometimes people may contract the flu by rubbing their mouth or nose after touching a surface or object that has flu viruses attached to it.
The best defense against the novel H1N1 virus or any type of influenza is an annual flu shot. Everyone over the age of six months (unless they are allergic to receiving the vaccine) should receive a flu shot. It contains an inactive influenza virus that causes the body to form antibodies that fight the virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a flu shot is between 70 and 90 percent effective in warding off illness in healthy people under age 65. In some cases, people who receive a flu shot can still get the flu. However, they may be infected by a much less severe form of the illness and have a decreased risk of flu-related complications such as:
- Heart attack
The CDC estimates that five to 20 percent of the population will get the flu each year. Of that number, more than 200,000 people will be hospitalized from flu complications, and about 36,000 cases will be fatal.
In addition to receiving a flu shot, here are some steps you can take to reduce your chances of getting the flu:
- Wash your hands
It's your first line of defense against illness. Time spent washing your hands is more important than the water temperature. You should spend 10 to 15 seconds, about how long it takes to sing "Happy Birthday."
- Use tissues to cover your hands and mouth when you sneeze
It's not only polite; it's a way to prevent the spread of germs.
- Try to avoid rubbing your eyes, nose or mouth
Germs spread this way.
- Use antibacterial wipes
Clean high traffic areas such as countertops, doorknobs, and telephones to prevent the harboring of germs.
- Keep waterless soap on hand
When you can't wash your hands, antibacterial gel will fight germs.
- Parents: Be aware
Children are up to 3 times more likely than adults to get the flu. Children age 6 to 10 have the highest flu infection rates. Keep children away from individuals who may have flu-like symptoms. If your child has the flu, keep him or her away from other children. For more information about the flu and children, visit Flu Facts.
If you or a loved one has flu-like symptoms and you need to make an appointment with a physician, call 1-888-Virtua-3.
As one of New Jersey’s largest health systems, Virtua helps people be well, get well and stay well through a comprehensive range of health care services. Services are delivered through three health and wellness centers, three fitness centers, four acute care hospitals, primary and specialty physician practices with more than 240 physicians, urgent care centers, seven ambulatory surgery centers, home health services, two long-term care and rehabilitation centers, 12 paramedic units and a wide range of outpatient services. A leader in maternal and child health services, Virtua delivers more than 8,000 babies a year. Virtua also provides employment and wellness services to 1,700 businesses and corporations. An innovator in clinical and information technology such as electronic medical records, Virtua is recognized for its ground-breaking partnerships with GE Healthcare
, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP)
and the Fox Chase Cancer Center
. It is the official orthopedic provider for the Philadelphia Flyers
. Virtua employs more than 8,400 people and has been honored as the #1 Best Place to Work in the Delaware Valley for seven consecutive years. It is the recipient of the Consumer Choice Award from the National Research Corporation. For more information, visit www.virtua.org