Flu season is upon us and Canadians are already dreading the announcement of this year’s swine/avian/human flu threat. With flu season comes, fevers, runny noses, aches and pains, missed work and school days. The flu can be either a mild annoyance or a serious illness.
Because of this, it can be difficult separating fact from fiction and reason from sensationalism when it comes to the flu virus. Each individual experience can differ from person to person.
Influenza is a virus that takes many forms. Prevailing strains of flu virus will differ from season to season and no two flu viruses are alike.
While there is a lot media attention paid to the dangers of the flu, the reality is most cases of the flu are relatively mild and tend to resolve themselves over time.
The flu virus is an opportunistic organism and tends to produce symptoms mainly in those with weak immune systems such as the sick and elderly.
One important fact that is often missed by the media is that healthy people can also be carriers of the flu without actually being sick or showing symptoms.
Its well known that in the young or old, healthy or sick, flu shot or not, the actual flu virus can live on hands, under fingernails, and within the respiratory tract of healthy people. Consequently, the flu virus can be spread by sneezing or through touch, with or without active infection.
While there is some evidence showing the effectiveness of vitamin D and other natural supplements, the single most effective way to prevent the flu or any virus, is through good hygiene.
The Mayo clinic has recommended a proper hand washing technique of 30 seconds of vigorous scrubbing with warm water. Antibacterial soaps are not necessary to achieve this effect. Alcohol based hand sanitizers are somewhat less effective but still good when hand washing is not available.
When it comes to preventing the flu, it can sometimes be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Hand washing, proper hygiene, staying home when you get sick, and trying to keep your immune system strong throughout the winter months are time tested methods to prevent the spread of the flu. As always, your best defense against the flu is prevention.