Flu expert reacts to new CDC report indicating milder flu season

milder flu seasonU.S. Influenza Surveillance Report numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate a milder flu season thus far. Richard Webby, Ph.D., a member of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Infectious Diseases Department, warned Americans that it is still very early in the influenza season and last year’s deadly flu season also showed unremarkable number of infections during this same time period.

“At this point the number of infections are low and dominated by the H1N1 virus, a different virus than the one which caused significant problems last season,” said Dr. Webby, one of a select group of scientists responsible for determining the composition of flu vaccines each year.  “However, this latest data cannot be mistaken for an all clear signal to let our guard down.  It is critical the public understands last year’s deadly flu season also showed unremarkable infection rates during this same time period.  Peak season has not yet happened and we continue to strongly encourage all Americans to receive the flu vaccine as soon as possible.”

new report released this week by NORC at the University of Chicago showed that “41 percent of Americans do not intend to get the flu shot this season.”  The report highlighted top reason including “lack of confidence in efficacy of vaccine, and concern about side effects from the vaccine.”

“The vaccine is not perfect, but it remains an extremely effective and life-saving public health tool,”remarked Dr. Webby.  “The flu vaccine is the number one way to protect yourself and it is the best, safest defense we have against a virus that kills and sickens too many of us each year.  We all must do our part to protect ourselves and our neighbors, while looking out for the most vulnerable members of our society – and that begins by getting the flu shot.”

Webby recently penned a guest column in FoxNews.com encouraging the public to get a flu shot regardless of health status, writing, “The more people who get the flu shot, the less chance the virus can spread while protecting more people.”

Many pediatric patients at St. Jude are at a greater risk of getting sick from influenza (flu) and other viral infections because of their diseases and treatments. Therefore, helping to disseminate lifesaving educational information about flu prevention techniques is of paramount importance to the St. Jude Infectious Diseases Department. November through February are peak flu months, and last year’s flu season was one of the deadliest in history.

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Infectious Diseases Department has released a fact sheet with useful medical advice and tips on prevention titled“Controlling the Spread of Colds and Flu.”

Some of the fact sheet tips to protect you and your family from the flu include:

  • Get the flu vaccine as soon as it is available to you and your family. Having all members of your family vaccinated helps provide a circle of protection. All members of the family 6 months or older are recommended to receive an annual flu vaccine.
  • Clean your hands often with soap and water or with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The flu is spread from person to person through coughing or sneezing.  If you are near an infected person who is coughing or sneezing, you might breathe in the flu virus. You might also become infected through touching.
  • Stay home if you’re sick. Until you are free of symptoms and a fever for 24 hours, you may still remain contagious. Cold and flu symptoms include coughing, sneezing, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headaches, body aches, chills or fatigue. It is possible for people infected with a flu virus to infect others even a day before symptoms appear.
  • Cover your mouth and nose. If you have to cough or sneeze, cover your face with your arm or a tissue. Then throw the tissue away and clean your hands. If you or a family member has a fever along with symptoms and has to leave the house, consider using a face mask in public to help control spreading the virus.
  • Avoid touching your nose and mouth. Touching objects like door handles or toys that have flu virus on them and then touching your mouth or nose is a prime way the flu virus spreads from person to person.
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