UT professor offers tips to help avoid, deal with flu season

Paul Campbell Erwin

Paul Campbell Erwin

Forty states—including Tennessee—are already experiencing widespread and increasing influenza infections this season, according to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Paul Erwin, head of the Department of Public Health at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, offers three simple tips that can go a long way in protecting you from getting or spreading the flu:

  • Get vaccinated.

Erwin noted that flu vaccines are still available and effective.

“It takes about two weeks for a person to develop a strong antibody response to the vaccine,” he said. “But we’re not through the flu season yet. So getting vaccinated now will still provide some benefit.”

Vaccines are available at your doctor’s office, your local health department, and a number of drug stores and pharmacies, Erwin said.

  • Wash your hands.

“It’s a mode of prevention that gets overly simplified and glossed over,” Erwin said. “But it’s so important.”

The flu can easily be spread by direct person-to-person contact if a person already with the flu wipes his or her nose and grabs a door handle. The next person grabs the same door handle and wipes his or her face, contracting the virus, he said.

  • If sick, stay home.

Because people share close quarters in schools and at work, it will be easier to spread the flu to people who are not vaccinated, Erwin said.

“Part of the challenge in controlling flu is that people can spread infection even before they become symptomatic,” Erwin said. “But once you come down with the illness, it does provide some protection for the community for you to isolate yourself by staying away from work and other places where people congregate.”

Erwin said most of his suggestions are simple common sense.

“But yet, here we are with a pretty steep rise of the flu in the state,” he said. “It’s because these things are not followed.”

To read the CDC report, visit http://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/index.htm.

To learn more about the UT Department of Public Health, visit http://publichealth.utk.edu.

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