The flu has killed at least 66 people in Georgia this year. As more and more people are diagnosed, the debate over how to prevent it, and the efficacy of the flu shot rages on.
But the flu is spreading like wildfire this season. Dr. Catherine Pechon of St. Francis and the Columbus Clinic says hand hygiene is critical.
“You want to wash your hands after you leave the house, after using the bathroom, after shaking hands with people. Make sure you’re constantly doing that, constantly getting those germs off your hands, covering your mouth when you cough, coughing into your elbow,” said Dr. Pechon.
And getting a flu shot. It’s about 30 percent effective for this year’s strains, according to the CDC but it takes takes roughly six to nine months to create a new vaccine. By then, flu season would be over. In patients at a higher risk, the elderly, small children, people with chronic illness or compromised immune systems, health officials say the vaccine can help. Dr. Pechon says she’s encountered patients who believe the flu shot can give you the flu.
“Usually the vaccine in and of itself gives you maybe a mild, flu-like syndrome, which is your body fighting and making those protective immune responses to the vaccine itself. But it still reduces your risk of going into the hospital with the flu, or dying from the flu. Some protection’s better than no protection.”
Dr. Pechon adds if your child has a fever, don’t send them to school. If you have a fever, don’t go to work. Avoid large gatherings of people, especially emergency rooms. See your family doctor instead.
If you do not have a primary care physician, St. Francis has a Physician Referral Line to connect people with doctors. The number is 1-800-424-DOCS.