Vaccination Key as Flu Season Begins Worldwide


Flu season typically occurs between October and May. Have you gotten your flu shot yet?


“Get vaccinated,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, M.D., said. “That's the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community against flu.”


“Get vaccinated. That's the best way to protect yourself, your family and your community against flu.”
— Tom Frieden, M.D., Director, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Influenza or flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by several viruses. Flu resembles the common cold because it infects the same organs (nose, throat, lungs) and has similar symptoms. It can cause mild to severe illness and even death. High-risk groups, which are especially vulnerable to complications from the flu, are children younger than two years, adults 65 and older, pregnant women or people with chronic diseases such as diabetes or lung disease or heart disease.


Last year flu viruses mutated after the vaccine was formulated, so that that the vaccine gave less protection than in previous years. This year’s vaccine has been updated to match the detected H3N2 strain of flu — a strain present in the worst flu years.


Do’s and Don’ts

  • Do get a flu shot
  • Do wash your hands properly and regularly
  • Do avoid sick people
  • Do cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing
  • Do get antiviral drugs promptly when sick
  • Do keep hydrated and get lots of rest
  • Don’t take antibiotics (flu is caused by a virus, not a bacteria)
  • Don’t smoke
  • Don’t overload with cold remedies or exercise

Antiviral drugs are no substitute for vaccinations, but they offer an important second line of defense. Getting prompt treatment with antiviral drugs and staying home will lessen the duration of the flu by several days. This is especially important for members of high-risk groups. It is worth noting that antibiotics do nothing to address the flu, because antibiotics address bacterial infections, and the flu is a viral infection.


WiRED International offers two flu modules in its Learning Center: one for health care professionals and one for grassroots audiences. The general audience module describes the flu, discusses who is at highest risk, how to prevent the flu and how to treat it. The module designed for health care workers and other health professionals offers a detailed examination of the three virus types that cause the flu. The course looks at issues such as virus structure, antigenic drift and antigenic shifting, compares seasonal and pandemic influenza, and presents additional resources for further study.


Flu is an unpredictable threat, but the bottom line is that getting the vaccine is the best protection against the virus. It takes two weeks for the vaccine to build up the body’s immunity, so people should get vaccinated right way.