BY SUNDAY OMEIKE

Influenza or flu is a health condition caused by a virus of the same name and its symptoms span from runny nose, sore throat, cough, headache, fever, and fatigue. Scary is that these could last up to a week.

While this virus could hit its victims in a mild way, severe cases have had patients report deadly conditions like viral pneumonia, inflammation of the heart (myocarditis), brain (encephalitis) or muscle (myositis).

According to the Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), flu could also worsen chronic medical conditions like cardiovascular disease, congestive heart failure, and asthma.

In the tropics — which includes Nigeria — flu happens all year round. But, as the rain pours unabated, there is a need to know how to protect yourself from contracting the disease and contain it.

Below are ways to avoid contracting and spreading flu, according to the World Health Organization’s latest report.

Annual vaccination

The WHO described annual vaccination as the most effective way to protect one’s self against flu and serious complications. This involves the administration of a harmless, agent-specific biological component that induces immunity against the disease-causing the form of the infectious agent.

Vaccines help the immune system to recognize and fight pathogens like viruses (and bacteria), and keep us safe from their diseases. The global health organization also noted that vaccination is important to groups of people who are more at risk — including children, pregnant women, health workers and the elderly.

“Vaccination is especially important for pregnant women, at any stage of pregnancy. “It’s also crucial for children aged 6 months to 5 years, elderly people, those suffering from chronic medical conditions, and for health care workers,” WHO said.

Regular handwashing

According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), keeping one’s hands clean is among the most important precautions against spreading germs. When done using soap and clean water, this could save lives in a household, added WHO, which also attributed a 50 per cent reduction in diarrheal disease-associated deaths to handwashing.

“Clean hands protect against many infections, including flu. Keeping your hands clean is an easy way to keep yourself and your family healthy. “Wash your hands with soap and running water regularly and dry them thoroughly with a single-use towel. You can also use an alcohol-based hand rub if you can’t get to soap and water,” it said.

Also, according to Tamer Rabie of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, handwashing can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by 16 per cent.

Keep those hands off your eyes, nose, and mouth!

The habit of picking the eyes, nose, and mouth is common, especially among children. But the University of Miami School of Medicine’s Robert Schwartz stated that the oral and respiratory routes “are the main ways a virus gets into your system.”

To buttress this point, the WHO further warned that the habit is a fast way of spreading the influenza virus, but can be avoided by the use of clean tissue or washed hands. “Germs are most likely to enter your body through the eyes, nose and mouth.

You can’t control everything you inhale, but you can reduce the risk of infection by keeping your hands away from your face. “If you do have to touch your eyes, nose or mouth, do it with a clean tissue, or wash your hands first.”

Watch out for sick people

Flu is caused by a virus, and its viral particles can only thrive when they find a host. This deadly organism has a sole function — continuous replication at the detriment of the body’s cells. Hence, denying it a new host is essential to controlling its spread.

To make sure of this, being around people who have “got the flu” should be minimized while infected people could be encouraged to use private means of movement to avoid spreading the disease in public places, WHO advised.

“Avoid being around sick people, Flu is contagious. It spreads easily in crowded spaces, such as on public transport, in schools and nursing homes and during public events. When an infected person coughs or sneezes, droplets containing the virus can spread as far as one metre, and infect others who breathe them in,” it said.

Caught the flu? Stay at home!

The ultimate advice for persons down with flu is to stay at home. Yes. This is especially important because they cannot choose who they’d meet when they leave their homes. WHO warns that it could range from people of strong immunity to the immuno-compromised, especially those suffering terminal illnesses.

“If you’re ill with flu, being around others puts them at risk. This is especially true for people with chronic medical conditions like cancer, heart disease, and HIV. Quickly isolating yourself can prevent the spread of flu and save lives,” WHO warned.



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