Yale-New Haven Hospital Offers Advice on Avoiding The Flu Without The Vaccine

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Yes, it helps to get a flu shot, but this year the vaccine supply is shrunk in half after a British supplier shut down a factory because of possible contamination.

Primary care physicians need to reserve the vaccines they do have for high-risk patients. Yale-New Haven Hospital is not equipped to handle widespread distributions of vaccines to the general public and is offering flu shots only to its high-risk inpatients and high-risk outpatients who are currently being followed in its clinics.

Most healthy people who get the flu tolerate it without serious complications. Because of the vaccine shortage, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is recommending that certain high-risk people be given priority for getting a flu shot. They include adults aged 65 and older; infants between 6 and 23 months old; pregnant women whose second and third trimesters fall between December and March; children age 23 months to 18 years on chronic aspirin therapy; any individual residing in an extended care facility; health care workers involved in direct patient care; and people with respiratory problems such as asthma or emphysema. Also high priority are adults and children who are immunosuppressed or taking immunosuppressive medications or who have chronic heart and lung conditions or illnesses such as diabetes.

If you are one of the many who won't be able to get your influenza vaccine this year, you'll need to do everything else you can to stay healthy.

"We'll tell you the same stuff your mother taught you," said Dr. Louise Dembry, MD, director of hospital epidemiology for Yale-New Haven Hospital. "You have to remember the basics, especially when it comes to washing your hands. We pick up viruses and germs just from touching a doorknob or shaking hands with a friend."

Dr. Dembry and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provide these tips on staying healthy even if you can't get the shot:

  • Wash your hands often, especially when preparing food, before eating, after using the bathroom, after playing with a pet, before and after caring for a sick person, after changing a diaper and after sneezing or coughing. You should wash your hands with soap and warm water for 15-20 seconds.

  • When soap and water are not available, try alcohol-based disposable hand wipes or gel sanitizers that can be used without water.

  • Always cough or sneeze into a tissue and then throw it away. If you don't have a tissue, do your best to cover your cough or sneeze, then wash your hands.

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  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.

  • Visit your doctor right away if you experience signs of the flu including muscle aches, fever and respiratory congestion.

  • If you do get sick, minimize your exposure to others by staying home from work or school.

  • Avoid visiting the hospital if you have an infection. If you are visiting a patient in the hospital and have a cough, sore throat, sneezing or runny nose, ask a nurse for a paper mask to cover your nose and mouth.

  • If you are admitted to the hospital, ask friends and loved ones not to visit if they have an infection.

  • Flu season peaks in late December and January. The vaccine supply may change, so those interested in vaccination should call their primary physician or local department of public health.

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The source of this article is http://www.ynhh.org

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