To the Editor,
When you are healthy and you are exposed to a viral illness, your immune system is equipped to fend off the virus so you have either no symptoms, or tolerable symptoms. When you are “run down” and exposed to the same virus, you run the risk of becoming ill enough to require hospitalization.
Here are tips to avoid succumbing to this season’s “common cold,” influenza and COVID-19 viruses.
1. First, avoid exposing yourself. Malls, stores, banks, post office, restaurants are all high traffic places with high risk for exposure. Limit, or ideally, avoid public places.
Telephone orders, internet delivery and curbside pickup are options.
The flu is mainly spread by droplets in the air when someone with the flu talks, coughs, or sneezes.
2. Stay away from sick people. Urge others to stay home if unwell, just as you must do to prevent virus transmission if you have symptoms.
Viruses require a new human host to replicate and survive. If a virus cannot move to a new host then it dies. Did you know that if we all stayed away from each other for two weeks, then COVID-19 would die off that quickly? Pretty good reason to stay home, isn’t it?
3. Wash, wash, wash your hands. COVID-19 can survive on skin for nine hours (11 hours if mixed with mucus and phlegm). Influenza A can last 1.8 hours (survival of SARS-CoV-2 and
influenza virus on the human skin: Importance of hand hygiene in COVID-19: Clinical Infectious Diseases, 03 October 2020). Viruses can last even longer on inanimate surfaces. The National Institutes of Health published a study saying that the virus can last up to four hours on copper, 24 hours on cardboard, and 72 hours on stainless steel (NIH, March 2020).
In the air, the virus can last for about three hours, the NIH said.
If you touch a surface with virus particles and then touch your eyes, nose or mouth, the virus has now entered your body.
4. Get vaccinated against influenza. Anyone at any age can get the flu. For some people the flu is mild, but for others it can be severe and even cause death.
Serious problems from the flu can happen to anyone, but people at higher risk include:
•Adults 65 years of age or older
•Children younger than five years of age
•People with certain conditions, such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease.
The best way to avoid getting the flu is to get an influenza vaccine (“flu shot”) every year. This also lowers your chances of having serious problems from the flu and of spreading it to others.
The flu vaccine stimulates your immune system – your body’s defence system – to produce special substances and cells that can fight the flu virus. (The vaccine does NOT cause the flu or increase your risk of getting the flu or other illnesses, such as COVID-19.)
Getting the flu virus can make it easier for you to get other viruses and illnesses. Getting the flu vaccine can help keep you and your lungs healthy. This can be especially important if you’re exposed to COVID-19.
Anyone exposed to COVID-19 while fighting the flu would be at higher risk of respiratory complications. It is your responsibility to decrease your risk of hospitalization from influenza. Hospitalization exposes you to other illnesses such as COVID-19.
Flu Season and the COVID-19 Pandemic
When there is a viral pandemic, like the coronavirus pandemic, it is more important than ever to get the flu vaccine.
The flu vaccine can help keep you from getting sick and going to the hospital, an important consideration during a coronavirus pandemic. You’ll want to do everything you can to keep yourself and those around you healthy and avoid situations that may expose you to the coronavirus. It is also possible that our hospitals and health resources will not be able to support the volume of patients when COVID-19 is circulating, and so getting an available vaccination is just sensible.
5. Immune boosters:
•Daily belly laugh
•Eight hours sleep
•Honey, ginger, zinc, vitamin C, fresh fruits and vegetables, berries, echinacea
Each one of us is in charge of our own behaviour, which influences our personal health and therefore the health of our family and community. Isn’t it empowering to know you can have control over the spread of illness as well as the severity of potential illness?
Dr. Nell Thomas