How to protect your body from flu – 10 must know facts

A Special Medical Bulletin from Ronald Klatz, M.D., D.O. Founder of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine

Chicago: Influenza is a highly contagious viral respiratory infection of the upper respiratory tract. The virus that causes the flu enters the body’s airways through mucous membranes in the nose, eyes, or mouth. Once the flu infection invades the body, it can settle into the throat, nose, bronchial tubes, lungs, and middle ear, causing an array of discomforting symptoms.

Symptoms of flu include chest congestion, cough, high fever, chills, aches and pains, headache, sneezing, and itchy eyes. After a bout of flu has completed it course, it is common for people to experience lingering fatigue that may last several weeks. Compared to the common cold or hayfever allergy, the flu only occasionally causes sneezing, sore throat, and stuffy nose.

We are now approximately two weeks from the start of the 2006-2007 flu season. Protect yourself from succumbing to the flu by learning these Ten Must-Know Facts About Flu:

Flu Fact #1.
Every year in the United States, on average 5% to 20% of the population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications; and about 36,000 people die from flu. Annual flu costs the US economy over $10 billion in worker absenteeism and lost productivity.

Flu Fact #2.
Seasonal flu can compromise health and quality of life. Complications of flu can include bacterial pneumonia, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, asthma, or diabetes. Children may get sinus problems and ear infections.

Flu Fact #3.
Influenza can be spread widely and wildly, transmitted easily from person-to-person. Be careful of how close you get to others. Viruses including the flu can transmit from person-to-person through handshakes and kisses. Human influenza virus transmits from person-to-person within a 3-foot (1-meter) radius of an infected person. A sneeze or cough can propel a virus 10 or more feet (3 or more meters). Cigarette smoke also spreads respiratory viruses, so it’s a good idea to avoid coming into contact with a smoke plume.

Flu Fact #4.
The influenza virus is highly contagious, and can remain on hard surfaces for up to 72 hours (even after that amount of time, enough virus particles can remain to potentially sicken people). Keep a supply of disposable antiseptic towelettes, and a wastebasket, near all phones, computers, fax machines, copiers, etc. Use a towelette each time prior to, and after, touching these items, and discard it promptly. Clean and disinfect surfaces that may have become contaminated with flu secretions by using products that are EPA-registered disinfectants. Pull your shirtsleeve over your hands when touching doorknobs, light switches, and other surfaces on which germs thrive.

Flu Fact #5.
Whereas influenza is a year-round disease, the peak of activity occurs during “flu season” which typically begins as early as October 1st and lasts as late as May 31st. A bout of seasonal flu can last up to a month.

Flu Fact #6.
Experts recommend that the single best way to prevent seasonal influenza is to get a flu vaccination in the fall. Yet, it can take up to two weeks for antibodies to develop that protect against seasonal influenza virus infection. And, vaccination is, at best, only about 60% effective.

Flu Fact #7.
The flu vaccine does not protect against the H5N1 bird flu virus.

Flu Fact #8.
As of 23 August 2006 (the latest available data as of this writing), the World Health Organization reports that worldwide, 241 cases of H5N1 bird flu infections have occurred in humans, resulting in 141 deaths. Bird flu is presently 58.5% fatal to humans. At this time, there is no commercially available vaccine to protect against the H5N1 bird flu virus. There also are no specific drugs approved at this time to specifically treat bird flu.

Flu Fact #9.
The most effective way to promote your body resistance to invasion by pathogenic germs of any kind, is to practice healthy hygiene habits the most critical of which is proper and frequent handwashing. Wash your hands ten times each day double that if you’re in an environment where infectious germs abound (for example, proximity to someone sick in the home or at the workplace, or physical contact with objects touched by someone who is sick).

It is especially important to wash hands: before, during, and after you prepare food (particularly raw meat, poultry, or fish); before you eat; before inserting or removing contact lenses; after you use the bathroom; after you blow your nose, cough, or sneeze; after treating a cut or wound of your own or someone else; after handling animals or animal waste; after changing a diaper; after handling garbage; when your hands are visibly dirty; more frequently when you or someone in your home is sick.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) outlines the technique for proper handwashing as:

1. Wet your hands and apply liquid or clean bar soap. Place the bar soap on a rack that allows it to drain.

2. Scrub all surfaces including wrists, palms, backs of hands, fingers, under the fingernails, and between fingers. Rub your hands vigorously together for 10-15 seconds.

3. Rinse well with warm water.

4. Dry hands with a clean or disposable towel. Pat the skin rather than rubbing, to avoid chapping or cracking. Apply hand lotion if your skin is susceptible to drying out.

Perhaps just as important as washing your hands is the matter of properly drying them. Researchers at Auckland Hospital in New Zealand found that drying hands for ten seconds using a clean cloth towel followed by air drying for 20 seconds achieved a 99.8% reduction in the amount of bacteria moved from one place to another on the skin.

Flu Fact #10.
Natural immune enhancement is a preventive health strategy designed to enhance and optimize an individual’s overall immunity in an effort to minimize the adverse effects of exposure to an infectious pathogen such as the influenza virus. Natural immune enhancement, employing vitamins and other dietary supplements, also can reduce viral load and control inflammation typically associated with infection. Check with your anti-aging physician to create an immune optimizing regimen that is best suited for your specific needs.