This year the flu season hit early and it will likely last until April. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best prevention is a flu shot and it's still not too late to get one.
Remember that the shot won't give you the flu because the virus used in the vaccine dies during the manufacturing process. It takes about two weeks for the vaccine for fully protect you, so you could still get the flu during that time.
Also, the shot may not stop each different flu strain. This year's vaccine is about 60 percent effective against the various types circulating today. That's actually pretty good since the effectiveness of the flu usually ranges from 50 percent to 70 percent.
Some people wonder why the vaccine doesn't protect against getting the flu 100 percent of the time. Health experts say it's because the vaccine only protects against three strains of the flu.
To complicate matters even further, it takes a long time to manufacture the vaccine, so scientists must try to predict months before the flu season hits which three strains will be the most prevalent in the upcoming flu season.
But that's about to change.
The Food and Drug Administration just approved a new flu vaccine that will be much faster to make. That means it will require less guesswork so it will be a better match. It's called Flublok.
Instead of growing the virus in chicken eggs for about three months, which is the usual way of manufacturing the flu vaccine, this new vaccine uses DNA technology instead, which cuts-off weeks from the manufacturing time.
Since the vaccine will not use chicken eggs, people with poultry allergies who currently cannot tolerate the flu vaccine, will be able to get this new flu shot.
In addition, this new flu vaccine is different from the regular one in that it does not use a live virus in the manufacturing process, which is a deterrent for many people who choose to abstain from getting vaccinated.
Holy Grail of Flu Shots?
The new vaccine still only protects against three strains of the flu. However, scientists are working on yet another type of flu vaccine, not yet approved. This one promises to protect against ALL types of flu, every strain.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, explained that it will be particularly useful for those viruses that seem to come out of nowhere and spread globally in a matter of weeks.
"What investigators have been doing over the last several years is to try and figure out how we can create a vaccine that would induce an immune response against influenza that would cross-protect against all the different variants that could emerge," he explained. "Ones that drift a little from year to year and ones that dramatically change rarely, every few times a century as we see with pandemics."
Aside from current and future vaccines, which doctors tout as the best flu prevention, there are other ways.
Washing Your Hands!
Topping that list: Washing your hands. But you have to do it right. Get a good lather going and keep it going 20 seconds, which is about as long as it takes to sing The Happy Birthday Song twice.
Rinse really well and dry with a clean towel. If there's no soap and water handy, hand sanitizers are a good substitute. Just make sure it's at least 60 percent alcohol, and rub until your hands are dry.
Your hands aren't the only culprit. The flu virus can live on a hard surface for up to two days. So regularly disinfect all those items you might touch on a daily basis, like door knobs, remote controls, refrigerator handles.
Other Do's and Don'ts
Our bodies are designed to fight-off the flu naturally. The catch is you have to strengthen your immune system. That requires discipline and remembering your dos and don'ts.
Do get at least eight hours of sleep, drink lots of water, eat nutritious foods, and take supplements, including fish oil, vitamins C, D and zinc.
Also eat the natural antibiotic, coconut oil -- about one tablespoon in the morning and another at night, University of Maryland lipid biochemist Dr. Beverly Teter suggested.
"The coconut oil tends to keep the bacteria down so that if you're assaulted with a virus, your immune system can concentrate on the virus," she explained. "It doesn't have to concentrate on 27 other bacteria that day."
Now for the don'ts.
Don't eat foods with a lot of sugar or trans fats. They can cause inflammation, which weakens your immune system.
Also don't get stressed-out. Anxiety zaps your immune system. Lowering stress begins with emotional improvement, such as prayer and Bible reading, as well as physical changes, including exercise.
So avoid the flu by getting the vaccine, keeping yourself and your environment clean, and keeping your body strong.
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