Flu - Prevention

A number of steps can be taken to minimise the spread of fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. infectionInvasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. within a population. These measures include:

  • Simple preventive measures
  • Vaccination
  • Monitoring by the World Health Organization, enabling specific vaccine production and early warning of new strains
  • Antiviral drugs.

Fortunately, vaccines and treatments are widely available and relatively cheap. Despite this, fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. is the least well controlled of all the infections that are potentially preventable by vaccination.[1]

For years, experts have been predicting that there would be another fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. pandemicAn outbreak of infection that affects numerous people in different countries. at some point, although they could not predict exactly when.

People who may benefit from influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. vaccination include all those over 65 years old, along with anyone younger than this who might be at higher risk of complications

Simple preventive measures

Simple hygiene measures have been shown to be effective in preventing the spread of respiratory virusesMicrobes that are only able to multiply within living cells. such as influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system..[2] It is important to adopt these measures as a matter of routine, including:[3]

  • Frequent hand washing with soap and water, or with alcohol-based hand gel
  • Avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, to limit the spread of germs that you may have picked up on your hands
  • Avoiding shaking hands in case the other person is contaminated
  • Frequent disinfection of hard surfaces that are touched frequently, including door handles, taps and telephones
  • Staying away from people who are ill

To protect others:

  • Covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you sneeze, throwing tissues away after use and washing your hands at once
  • If you have a fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system.-like illness, staying at home for at least 24 hours after the fever has subsided - thus keeping away from others as much as possible while you are infectious.

Basic infectionInvasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. control in hospitals includes frequent disinfection of hard surfaces, encouraging hand washing and use of hand-sanitising gel, isolating infected patients and restricting the numbers of visitors.[4]

Vaccination

The recommendations as to who should be vaccinated against influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. are very different from country to country. However, those who need a vaccination should receive it before the usual seasonal onset of fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. in their country (in temperate climates, that is - in warmer climates fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. can occur all year round).[5]

People who may benefit from influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. vaccination include all those over 65 years old, along with anyone younger than this who might be at higher risk of complications: for example, those with diabetes mellitusDisordered energy metabolism and high levels of glucose in the blood owing to a lack of insulin, or poor response of the body to insulin., asthma, heart problems or kidney disease.[3,6] This is because not only are these people more prone to fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. infectionInvasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites., but also, should they become infected, they are more likely to fall seriously ill.

Other people who may be offered the vaccination include those who spend time with high-risk groups - for example, healthcare professionals and social workers.[3,5,6]

Beyond these groups, the extent to which it is advised that healthy people, who are not in contact with those at high risk, should be vaccinated varies substantially. In some countries such as the USA, much more widespread immunisation is recommended.[2,6]

There are two main types of influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. vaccine - an injection made from dead (inactivated) virusesMicrobes that are only able to multiply within living cells., or an intranasalWithin the nose. spray containing live, but weakened (attenuatedA microbe that has been treated so as to be less able to cause disease. Attenuated bacteria or viruses are used in many immunisations, to stimulate the body's immune system against a disease without actually causing that disease.) virusesMicrobes that are only able to multiply within living cells..[2] In many countries, only the injection is available. Additionally, an attenuatedA microbe that has been treated so as to be less able to cause disease. Attenuated bacteria or viruses are used in many immunisations, to stimulate the body's immune system against a disease without actually causing that disease. vaccine injection is available in some countries, but it is less widely used.[7]

Specialists believe that vaccination can prevent about half of all fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system.-related deaths. Although concerns have been raised in the past that the vaccine may not be as effective in older people, more recent research suggests that this is not the case.[2]

Since the introduction of vaccination policies, many countries have seen large reductions in the number of people infected with influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. virusesMicrobes that are only able to multiply within living cells. each year.[5] However, the number of people who get vaccinated each year varies from country to country, even among countries with very similar vaccination policies.[8]

Monitoring by the World Health Organization

Because fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. virusesMicrobes that are only able to multiply within living cells. change all the time, they are capable of evading the immune systemThe organs specialised to fight infection., and this enhances their ability to cause outbreaks of infectionInvasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites.. In response to the constant variation in these virusesMicrobes that are only able to multiply within living cells. (called antigenic variabilityA change in the antigens on the surface of a microbe, which may result in it escaping detection by the immune system.), the World Health Organization (WHO) has established a surveillance programme to monitor influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. virusesMicrobes that are only able to multiply within living cells. around the world.[9]

The WHO programme's findings help specialists to make appropriate vaccines each year. That is, because it's possible to monitor the types of influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. circulating, each year a vaccine can be designed to protect against these specific types.[9]

Every year the vaccine is designed to protect against the three influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. virusesMicrobes that are only able to multiply within living cells. that this research suggests will be the most common - in other words, the strains that are most likely to cause epidemics that year.[3,5]

In addition, if a strain of virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. emerges that seems able to produce a pandemicAn outbreak of infection that affects numerous people in different countries. , the WHO programme should be able to give early warning of this.[9]

Antiviral drugs

As well as being used to treat people with symptoms, antiviralA substance that acts against viruses, for example and antiviral drug. medication is sometimes used to prevent fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. developing after known or suspected exposure to an infected person, a strategy known as post-exposure prophylaxis.

People who may be offered post-exposure prophylaxis are primarily those at high risk of complications and healthcare workers.

These medicines can be 70-90 per cent effective in preventing influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. infectionInvasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites., as long as the strain of influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. concerned is still susceptible to the effects of the drug. Unfortunately, strains of influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. virusA microbe that is only able to multiply within living cells. that are resistantA microbe, such as a type of bacteria, that is able to resist the effects of antibiotics or other drugs. to these medications have been reported.

Even with influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. strains that are susceptible, however, prevention of infectionInvasion by organisms that may be harmful, for example bacteria or parasites. with these medications is no substitute for getting a fluA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. vaccine.[10]

References: 
  1. Glezen WP. Control of Influenza. Tex Heart Inst J. 2004;31:39-41.
  2. Mossad SB. 2008-2009 Influenza update: a better vaccine match. Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine. 2008;75:865-70.
  3. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm [Last accessed September 14th, 2009.]
  4. Stott DJ, Kerr G and Karman WF. Nosocomial transmission of influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system.. Occup Med. 2002;52:249-53.
  5. Liddle BJ and Jennings R. Influenza vaccination in old age. Age and ageing. 2001;30:385-9.
  6. http://www.nhsdirect.nhs.uk/article.aspx?name=DoINeedAFluJab [Last accessed September 14th, 2009.]
  7. Tosh PK, Boyce TG and Poland GA. Flu myths: dispelling the myths associated with live attenuatedA microbe that has been treated so as to be less able to cause disease. Attenuated bacteria or viruses are used in many immunisations, to stimulate the body's immune system against a disease without actually causing that disease. influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. vaccine. Mayo Clin Proc. 2008;83:77-84.
  8. Kroneman MW and van Essen GA. Variations in influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system. vaccination coverage among the high-risk population in Sweden in 2003/4 and 2004/5: a population survey. BMC Public Health. 2007;7:113-20.
  9. Zambon MC. Epidemiology and pathogenesis of influenzaA viral infection affecting the respiratory system.. Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy. 1999;44:3-9.
  10. http://www.cdc.gov/h1n1flu/antiviral.htm [Last accessed September 14th, 2009.]