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How can I Prevent the Transmission of Influenza?

Influenza is an extremely contagious illness caused by the influenza virus, and quite common during the winter months. There are three main types of influenza — types A, B, and C, — and symptoms of influenza include aches and pains, chills, fever, and respiratory and stomach problems. Type A influenza is considered to be the most common and the most dangerous, and it is believed to have caused more than one influenza epidemic. To prevent a pandemic influenza, the World Health Organization, as well as other health organizations and doctors, encourage individuals to take certain steps to prevent the transmission of influenza. These precautions include vaccination and practicing healthy habits, especially during flu season.

The United States Centers for Disease Control claim that one of the best ways to stop the spread of influenza is to get vaccinated against the disease. Influenza vaccines are available in either an injection or a nasal spray. Both of these methods are believed to help stop the transmission of influenza by helping individuals build up an immunity to the virus. Since the virus changes slightly every year, however, a different vaccine must be created every season.

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Influenza vaccine injections contain dead portions of the influenza virus. It is injected into the muscles, and can be tolerated by most people. It is recommended, though, that individuals who previously had severe side effects to this vaccine and those with a severe egg allergy refrain from getting this vaccine. Infants under six month of age and people with recent or certain chronic illness should also not receive the vaccine.

The nasal spray influenza vaccine was first used around 2003 to help prevent the transmission of influenza. It is inhaled through the nose. Unlike the injection, this mist contains living, but weakened, portions of the influenza virus. Like the injection, people with certain health problems should not be given this vaccine. Pregnant women, children younger than two, and adults over 50 also should also not receive this vaccine.

The transmission of influenza typically occurs when a person comes in contact with the virus, so avoiding people or areas affected with influenza can help stop the spread of the virus. During flu season, which usually starts around October and ends during spring, individuals are strongly encouraged to keep away from people who are sick. Also, individuals who are sick are encouraged to stay home from work, and parents are instructed to keep their sick children home from school. Covering the nose and mouth with the forearm or crook of the elbow can also stop drops of saliva containing the virus from spreading.

Hand washing is particularly encouraged more during flu season to help prevent the transmission of influenza. Most experts recommend using hot water and washing with soap for at least 15 seconds. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also great for killing a number of germs, including the influenza virus.

Even if a person is not sick or has not come in contact with those who are, it is still possible for him to contribute to the transmission of influenza. Simply touching something where the virus is present, such as a door handle at a restaurant, can spread the virus. During flu season, doctors discourage people from touching their face, especially their eyes, mouth, or nose, since the virus can be spread this way.

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