Prevention is better than cure
How to avoid catching flu?
‘How to avoid catching flu?’
The traditional way of preventing flu is through vaccination; this acts upon the primary strain and contains, as a rule, antigens of three strains of flu virus — as recommended by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
The efficiency of vaccination depends on how well strains circulating are predicted. In addition, an interferon can be inhaled (if there is fear of falling ill after contact with those suffering from respiratory infection, during a period of epidemic). Application of disinfectant can also be useful in preventing the spread of the virus and ultra-violet irradiation can be used for air disinfection, as can aerosol disinfectors and catalystic air purifiers.
Avoid those who are sneezing and coughing. Those who are unwell should avoid public places where possible, to prevent spreading their illness.
Doctors aren’t yet in agreement about the necessity of vaccinating against flu, although supporters urge that it ‘costs’ less to vaccinate than to have people missing work through illness, or to be presenting themselves for treatment after becoming ill. Opponents state that all vaccines have potential side-effects and are thus best avoided, unless people belong to ‘at risk’ categories:
• the elderly (recommended in the UK for those aged 65 and older);
• those with chronic lung disease (such as bronchial asthma, or chronic obstructive lung disease);
• those with chronic heart disease (such as congenital heart disease, impaired cardial function or ischemic heart disease);
• those with chronic liver disease (including cirrhosis);
• those with chronic kidney conditions (such as nephrotic syndrome);
• patients with epistatic immunity (such as those who suffer from HIV, and those who receive medicines suppressing their immune system, like chemotherapy, or steroids of long reception — as well as those in contact with such patients at home);
• people living in organised collectives, where flu can spread quickly (prisons, old people’s homes and hostels);
• medical workers (both to prevent flu, and passing on to patients).
Babies contracting flu are more at risk of fatality, so those in contact with them should be vaccinated to reduce passing on infection. During the years when Japan demanded annual flu vaccination for children of school age (being the group most likely to contract and spread flu) a tremendous reduction was observed in the death rate among senior citizens: one less fatality per 420 children vaccinated against flu.
Side-effects of flu vaccination
The WHO National Advisory Committee on Vaccine Safety has registered and examined cases of serious side-effects from vaccines, finding that general immunisation lacks effectiveness. However, at-risk groups, allowing for medical contraindications, can benefit from vaccination during the pre-epidemic period. Complications arising from vaccination are divided into two categories: local (on the site of injection) and systemic (throughout the whole body). The first is observed in approximately 38 percent of cases, while the second occurs in 20 percent.
Split vaccines are most commonly used, comprising antigens of the flu virus (separated and deactified after reaching full growth). Side-effects tend to be a moderate feeling of being unwell, reddening (very seldom), swelling at the site of injection, a rise in body temperature, and various pains. Usually, these begin soon after injection and last for 1-2 days.
Annual change in the structure of flu vaccines
The flu virus is ever mutating, so that particular vaccines’ effectiveness is short-lived: at most, effective for one year. WHO co-ordinates structures of flu vaccines to identify the most probable strains of causative agents, ready for use the following year.
By Tatiana Zhukova, doctor of higher category, D.M. Ph.D.