What you need to know to stay healthy this flu season

Author: Madison Alworth / WTSP
Published: Updated:
Flu season vaccination. Photo via AP.
FILE: An unvaccinated 6-year-old Oregon boy was hospitalized for two months for tetanus and almost died of the bacterial illness. Photo via AP.

According to the Florida Department of Health, the flu has officially hit “widespread” status for Florida, and the number of cases are increasing which means we still have a whole lot of flu season left.

While there have not been any pediatric deaths from the flu in Florida, 13 children have died in other parts of the country.

If you don’t want to get the flu, here is what doctors suggest:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • If you do feel sick, stay home until you are completely fever-free for at least 24 hours
  • Get your flu vaccine

According to the CDC, 90 percent of the flu cases tested this year are H1N1. That strain is in this year’s flu vaccine.

So let’s break down what the flu vaccine is.

The flu vaccine differs each year because the disease is different each year. For other diseases, the vaccines stay the same because the disease stays the same: think diseases like measles or the chickenpox.

The process for making the vaccine is complex and takes the entire year. More than 100 national influenza centers in over 100 countries look all year long for strains of the flu. This involves receiving and testing thousands of influenza virus samples from patients. The virus strains are then sent to one of these five centers:

  • Atlanta, Ga. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC)
  • London, United Kingdom (The Francis Crick Institute)
  • Melbourne, Australia (Victoria Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory)
  • Tokyo, Japan (National Institute for Infectious Diseases)
  • Beijing, China (National Institute for Viral Disease Control and Prevention)

After that, the World Health Organization reviews the results from the surveillance, laboratory and clinical studies, and recommends which viruses should be included in the upcoming years’ vaccine. The FDA makes the final decision about which vaccine viruses for the flu will be sold in the U.S.

And it’s not too late to get the flu vaccine! Keep in mind that the Florida peak flu season is typically later than everyone else’s, so there could still be a lot of flu season ahead of us.

Story courtesy WTSP 10 News Tampa.

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