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September 06, 2011 06:15 PM

Preparing For Upcoming Flu Season


Local doctors say you shouldn't be overly alarmed about a new strain of the flu.
Two children in Pennsylvania and Indiana were diagnosed with H3N2 but have recovered. Still, doctors say it's important to protect yourself from deadly flu viruses.

"Because this is a lethal virus. This virus can kill on its own an otherwise completely healthy person," Dr. Wendell Hoffman said.

Doctor Hoffman, an infectious disease specialist at Sanford Health, says the best weapon to fight the flu comes in the form of a needle or mist. The Centers for Disease Control recommends everyone older than six months be vaccinated.

"They've tried targeting the most vulnerable in the past to be the ones primarily vaccinated, and it's increasingly recognized that we all can potentially carry this virus without even knowing it," Hoffman said.

While the vaccine can be life-saving, different strains of the flu can pop up. That's already happened twice this flu season.

"That influenza virus that affected both of these children had a gene from the H1N1 pandemic strain, which mixed together with other viruses in the swine because swine classically are called mixing vessels," Hoffman said.

Hoffman said he doesn't think the new H3N2 flu that sickened two children in Pennsylvania and Indiana will lead to a pandemic, like H1N1 did a couple years ago.

"It ended with these two cases. There's no evidence that it went beyond.  So, it's not like they're concerned about a new pandemic strain," Hoffman said.

Even without a pandemic though, the flu can be deadly. That's why Hoffman insists you should be vaccinated.

"If you're not going to get the vaccine yourself, if you don't see the wisdom in that, then do you see the wisdom in protecting the people around you? Most of the time that message resonates," Hoffman said.

It's a message that could help prevent deaths and illness in the upcoming flu season.

In addition to the flu vaccine, you can also protect yourself by washing your hands with soap or using hand sanitizer before eating, keeping your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth, and using a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
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