Flu, or influenza, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. It can cause mild to severe illness and sometimes lead to complications such as pneumonia, sinus infection, ear infection, or even death. According to the CDC, “most experts think that flu viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby or possibly be inhaled into the lungs.”
One of the best ways to prevent the flu and its potentially serious consequences is to get vaccinated every year. Flu vaccines protect against the most common strains of flu viruses that are expected to circulate in a given season. However, flu vaccines are not 100% effective, and some people may still get sick after getting vaccinated. Therefore, it is also important to practice other preventive measures, such as washing your hands frequently and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. These actions can help reduce the risk of getting and spreading flu and other germs that cause respiratory illnesses.
In this article, we will discuss seven examples of where vaccines and handwashing can prevent the spread of the flu virus. We will also provide some tips and resources on how to get vaccinated and practice good hygiene habits.
How Vaccines Prevent the Spread of Flu
Vaccines work by stimulating the body’s immune system to produce antibodies that fight off specific diseases. When a person gets vaccinated against the flu, their body develops immunity to the flu strains that are included in the vaccine. This means, that if they are exposed to those strains later, their immune system will recognize them and fight them off before they cause illness.
By getting vaccinated, a person not only protects themselves from getting sick but also helps protect others around them. This is because vaccinated people are less likely to get infected and transmit the virus to others. This is especially important for people who are at high risk of developing serious complications from the flu, such as young children, older adults, pregnant women, and people with chronic medical conditions. By getting vaccinated, they can reduce their chances of getting hospitalized or dying from the flu.
Here are some examples of how vaccines prevent the spread of the flu:
- A schoolteacher gets vaccinated against the flu every year before flu season starts. She teaches a class of 30 students, some of whom may not be vaccinated or have weak immune systems. By getting vaccinated, she reduces her risk of getting sick and missing work while protecting her students from getting exposed to the flu virus.
- A pregnant woman gets vaccinated against the flu as soon as the vaccine becomes available in her area. She knows that the flu can be dangerous for her and her unborn baby and that getting vaccinated can protect them both. By getting vaccinated, she lowers her risk of having flu-related complications, such as premature labor, miscarriage, or birth defects. She also passes some immunity to her baby, who will be protected from the flu for the first few months of life.
- A senior citizen gets vaccinated against the flu every year, as recommended by his doctor. He lives in a nursing home, where he interacts with many other residents and staff members. By getting vaccinated, he boosts his immune system and prevents himself from getting a severe case of the flu that could lead to pneumonia or other problems. He also helps prevent the spread of the flu in his community, where many people may be vulnerable to flu complications.
How Hand Washing Prevents the Spread of Flu
Handwashing is one of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent the spread of germs that cause flu and other respiratory illnesses. Germs can be spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with the flu virus, such as a doorknob, a keyboard, or a tissue, and then touches their own eyes, nose, or mouth. By washing their hands often with soap and water, or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, a person can remove the germs from their hands and avoid infecting themselves or others.
Hand washing can also help prevent the spread of the flu by reducing the amount of virus that is shed from a person’s respiratory tract. When a person with the flu coughs, sneezes, or talks, they release droplets that contain the flu virus into the air. These droplets can land on nearby surfaces or be inhaled by other people. By washing their hands before and after coughing, sneezing, or blowing their nose, a person with the flu can reduce the amount of virus that they release into the environment and lower the risk of infecting others.
Here are some examples of how handwashing prevents the spread of the flu:
- A college student feels a tickle in his throat and thinks he might be coming down with the flu. He remembers to wash his hands frequently with soap and water, especially before eating, after using the bathroom, and after touching his face. He also covers his mouth and nose with a tissue when he coughs or sneezes, and throws it away immediately. By doing so, he prevents himself from getting sicker and spreading the flu virus to his classmates and friends.
- A mother takes care of her young daughter, who has the flu. She washes her hands often with soap and water, especially before and after touching her daughter, feeding her, changing her diaper, or giving her medicine. She also uses an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap and water are not available. By doing so, she protects herself from getting the flu and reduces the chance of passing it on to her husband and other children.
- A nurse works in a hospital, where he treats many patients with the flu and other illnesses. He washes his hands thoroughly with soap and water, or uses an alcohol-based hand rub, before and after touching any patient, equipment, or surface. He also wears gloves, a mask, and other personal protective equipment when appropriate. By doing so, he prevents himself from getting infected and transmitting the flu virus to his patients and co-workers.
- A cashier works in a grocery store, where he handles money, products, and customers’ items. He washes his hands regularly with soap and water, or uses an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially after touching anything that may be contaminated with the flu virus. He also avoids touching his eyes, nose, or mouth with his hands. By doing so, he prevents himself from getting sick and spreading the flu virus to his customers and colleagues.
Flu is a serious disease that can cause mild to severe illness and sometimes lead to complications or death. One of the best ways to prevent the flu and its consequences is to get vaccinated every year. Because vaccines are not 100% effective, some people may still get sick after getting vaccinated. Therefore, it is also important to practice other preventive measures, such as washing your hands frequently and avoiding close contact with people who are sick. These actions can help reduce the risk of getting and spreading the flu and other germs that cause respiratory illnesses.
Following these simple steps, you can protect yourself and others from the flu and help create a healthier and safer community. For more information on flu prevention, visit the CDC website or consult your health care provider. If you need a flu vaccine or would like to set up a group flu vaccine clinic, contact AmeriStaff Nursing Services at (248) 288-2270. Remember, prevention is better than cure. Stay healthy and stay safe.