Protecting Yourself During the 2013 – 2014 Flu Season

Despite the government shutdown, which started at the beginning of October, there are reports that the flu shot supply hasn't been directly affected. You should still be able to receive a flu shot just as you did last year. What has been affected, however, is how the flu viruses will be monitored if the shut down continues on through the winter and into the Spring of 2014. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention has partially been shut down, along with other federally funded programs.

Each February, the CDC begins to examine the flu season of the previous year and starts to work toward predicting the next flu season. Most of the predictions and preparations for the new flu shots have already been made, and a large number of the shots have already been produced and distributed. If the shut down had occurred in February, there would definitely have been a huge deficit in flu shots for this flu season, and no analysis or predictions for how this flu season could turn out.

The 2012 – 2013 cold and flu season was a particularly bad one. The CDC has prepared vaccines that will protect against the types of flu that are similar to the ones that were prevalent last season. If the shut down continues into December and January, it's likely that there could be a brand new strain of flu that people have not been vaccinated against, and the CDC won't be able to effectively monitor and protect people from it.

Most strains of the flu are especially dangerous for the elderly, young children, and those with certain health conditions. If you have a lung disease like COPD, this could be life threatening because your lungs are already compromised. Getting sick with something as serious as the flu can send you into an exacerbation, which is a worsening of COPD, and your blood oxygen level could drop to dangerous levels if gone untreated.

How can I protect myself if another flu strain breaks out?

Besides being sure to get a flu shot at the beginning of flu season, or as soon as your doctor can give you one, there are several ways you can protect yourself from the unknown this flu season.

Stay out of crowded places as much as possible. Do the bulk of your Christmas shopping online. Have your groceries delivered to you. Try to go out and about when you know places won't be very crowded, like during a weekday or at night.

Like many other viruses, the flu is transmitted by respiratory droplets, which come out of the body when someone sneezes or coughs. People will then proceed to touch surfaces like shopping carts, door knobs and counter surfaces. Be wary of these surfaces. Bring sanitizing wipes with you and wipe down the shopping cart before using it. Open a bathroom door with a paper towel when leaving a public rest room. Wash your hands as often.

Taking a 500 milligram vitamin C tablet each day will help give your immune system a boost, and so will staying well hydrated and getting plenty of sleep every night. You should also do as much as you can to lower your stress level.

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