There’s still a chance, if you’re waiting for a flu shot. One Visiting Nurse Association is offering shots on “the honor system” to people who declare they’re in the high-risk group. While most Americans don’t get flu shots, more are thinking about it this fall, after hearing they might not be able to get the vaccine. Doctor Yogesh Shah at Mercy Hospital in Des Moines works with the elderly, one high-risk group for the influenza virus. Handwashing alone, if done properly, would prevent lots of flu and many other infections. Doctor Shah says there are some options available to treat symptoms of the flu, and to boost a patient’s resistance if they’ve been exposed but don’t yet have the disease. They’re not over-the-counter, but there are some medications a doctor can prescribe for a patient with symptoms or someone in a high-risk population like a nursing home as a preventive during the flu season. Handwashing is still the best way to prevent or avoid the flu season, the edoctor says. Doctor Shah says there’s a pneumonia vaccine often given this time of year to at-risk patients. People 65 and older, with chronic conditions like asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and diabetes — and it’s good to prevent pneumonia but won’t affect influenza. He cautions that while the pneumonia vaccine is effective and permanent — you only need one shot the rest of your life — it won’t protect against influenza. Doctore Shah says if you’ve been exposed or might have flu, you should be careful not to expose people who’d be hit hard by the virus. If you have any symptoms that mean you might have flu — fever, headache, body aches, runny nose, cough — avoid any relatives who might have a high likelihood of catching that disease from you. He gives examples of those you should consider “at risk.” People in nursing homes, who’re getting cancer therapy — avoid them, or if you have to see them keep a distance and even consider wearing a mask like people did to avoid spreading SARS.
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