HOW THE FLU SPREADS

The flu is caused by many virus strains and is highly contagious. A person can infect someone within six feet of one another. It can be passed through breathing the virus in, touching something previously touched by someone with the flu (such as a doorknob or handle), kissing, or using unclean utensils.

Coughing, sneezing, and saliva exiting from one's mouth while talking spreads tiny droplets of fluid containing the virus. A person can infect someone else without realizing it because they are not yet experiencing symptoms of the flu. It can take four days to even show symptoms. After symptoms begin, you are contagious for another five to seven days.

Most seasonal flu activity typically occurs between October and May, but it most commonly peaks between December and February.

CONSIDERING THE VACCINE

The demographic group most affected by the flu is seniors. Seniors' immune system is often weakened making them vulnerable to getting the flu. According to the CDC, seniors who got the flu vaccine were 50 percent less likely to be hospitalized. The vaccine covers most strains of influenza A and B of the flu virus.

Almost one-third of seniors won't get vaccinated, despite the effectiveness of the vaccine. You can get a flu shot at a doctor's office, blood-testing lab, or a local pharmacy. Most insurances and Medicare will cover the flu vaccine.

There are some mild side effects after receiving the vaccine. Some side effects include:

* Headaches
* Problems with breathing
* Pain or soreness where the shot was infected
* An increased heart rate
* Dizziness

The CDC recommends that all seniors physically capable of receiving the vaccine should get one, except for those who have had a allergic reaction in the past or someone who has a high fever. It is important to speak with your doctor concerning the vaccine.

HOW TO PREVENT THE FLU

The best way to prevent getting the flu is by getting the vaccine, even though only about 60 percent of vaccinations are effective. There are plenty of other preventative steps seniors can take in order to reduce their chances of catching the influenza virus. These steps include:

- Wash your hands for at least 15 seconds. Use warm water and soap and rub your hands vigorously. You should wash your hands thoroughly every time that you cough or sneeze and before every meal. It is also wise to keep a bottle of hand sanitizer (alcohol base) around your home and in a purse or pocket.

- Avoid being in close contact with others who are sick. Keep in mind to also keep your distance if you are not feeling well.

- Do not touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. Germs can be spread when someone touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches their eyes, nose, or mouth.

- Take care of yourself by practicing good health habits. These habits would include being physically active, managing stress levels, drinking plenty of fluids, eating healthy food, and getting adequate sleep.

Please keep in mind that the flu is serious. Any questions about the flu or how to prevent it should be addressed with your primary care physician.