In a university news release on October 19, microbiologist John Tudor, Ph.D., professor of biology at Saint Joseph's University in Philadelphia, US, anticipates a mild flu season this year, especially compared to last year's pandemic of H1N1.
"There should be increased resistance to H1N1 due to both natural immunity for those who were infected last year, and to artificial immunity for those who received the H1N1 vaccine," he said. "I also anticipate that more people will be vaccinated this year, which should reduce the infection rate even more."
All age groups are at risk, but the very young and very old are at higher risk of catching the flu. Another risk factor: stress. High stress weakens your immune system to the flu, said Tudor, "and infected people who are stressed may also experience more severe symptoms."
In 2009, a new flu vaccine was developed to better protect people over the age of 65. The injection has four times the amount of antigens without additional side effects from the standard vaccine. Both vaccines protect against three types of influenza, including H1N1.
In a news release earlier this month, David Salisbury, director of immunization at the UK Department of Health, recently advised people not to underestimate the effects of seasonal flu. "It is not the same as getting a cold," he warned. "It can seriously affect your health and the risks of developing complications are greater if you have certain pre-existing medical conditions."
Tudor recommends the following to stay healthy this season:
- Relax to reduce stress, but get vaccinated. This is the best way to protect yourself and those close to you from getting the flu.
- Wash your hands often, and try not to touch your eyes, mouth, or nose, which are the entry areas for the virus.
- When you cough or sneeze, use a tissue if possible. Otherwise cough or sneeze into your elbow or upper arm area.
- If you get sick, stay home to avoid spreading illness to others.
To learn more about flu prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/