Knowledge key in combating influenza

November 11th, 2016

Flu vaccines are given to staff, faculy and students at Texas A&M College of Dentistry.Pandemic flu remains a significant concern for workers and employers in health care settings. A pandemic can occur at any time and can be mild, moderate or severe. The most effective way to reduce your risk of exposure to the flu virus in any workplace is to follow basic hygiene precautions.

“During the flu season in 2014 and 2015, more adult and elderly people still suffered from flu-like symptoms and respiratory distress requiring emergency medical care and hospitalization than prior years,” says Dr. Raghunath Puttaiah, professor in diagnostic sciences, who teaches several hours of infection control instruction to second-year dental and graduate students. “The best thing to do is keep your immune system up and running.”

So how do you keep yourself healthy during flu season?

Dr. Raghunath Puttaiah

Dr. Raghunath Puttaiah

Puttaiah offers the following recommendations: eat well, exercise, get adequate rest and keep up personal hygiene. He advises not to share food or drink during flu outbreaks, avoid crowded places, but most importantly, get your flu shot.

“During a flu pandemic, apart from common infection control measures and aseptic techniques, infection control measures for clinicians include not coming to work if you are feeling sick, washing your hands as many times as possible, covering your cough with a disposable towel or tissue and wearing a protective mask as an added precaution to avoid droplets from sneezing or coughs,” Puttaiah says. “Also let patients know proactively at least a day before their appointment not to come if they are feeling sick.”

Puttaiah says one of the most effective tools we have in combating influenza is the vaccine. In the past, people had the option of getting the vaccine in the form of a nasal spray, but that option is no longer available as the flu mist has been discontinued for 2016-2017.

“What they found in multiple studies was the mist was less effective in immunizing a person than the vaccine,” Puttaiah says. “They found the live attenuated mist flu vaccine should not be used, according to the CDC. Instead inactivated influenza and recombinant influenza vaccine should be used.”

However, many people are reluctant to get the vaccine for fear it will cause them to get the flu. This is a myth, Puttaiah says. The most common side effects from the influenza shot are soreness, redness, tenderness or swelling at the injection site. A low-grade fever, headache and muscle aches also may occur — a small price to pay to avoid the protracted misery of the flu.

For other influenza misconceptions, Harvard compiled 10 flu myths to help debunk misinformation and bad advice so you’re ready and armed to deal with the flu.

Staff and faculty walk-ins for the free vaccine are still being accepted from 10 a.m. to noon on weekdays. Have questions? Contact Jackie Tucker-Adami, college health nurse, at 214-828-8253.

— LaDawn Brock