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WVU Health Report: Flu

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MORGANTOWN, WV -

Last year's flu season was one of the worst in recent history, so how bad will flu season be this year? Public health officials can't say for sure because it's impossible to predict how the virus will behave. They do agree that the best way to avoid getting the flu is to get a flu shot. And they recommend everybody ages six months old and up get one.

Dr. Arif Sarwari, an infectious disease specialist at WVU, advises protecting children who don't yet qualify for a shot by vaccinating everybody else around them. "So that's an important principle. You have a newborn at home, they don't qualify for a vaccine, it falls upon Mom, Dad, and everybody else at home to get the vaccine so that you literally protect them from getting the flu," said Dr. Sarwari.

There are two different flu vaccines available this year, one fights three strains of the flu, the other fights four strains. "Some of the vaccines that are available protect against four different types of flu strains, which makes it more likely that the vaccine is more protective," according to Dr. Sarwari. "So when you're taking a guess with three strains as compared to with four strains, you're more likely to hit the mark when you use four antigens."

You can help prevent the flu if you wash your hands frequently, avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth, and cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. According to Dr. Rolly Sullivan with WVU's School of Medicine it's not too late to get a flu shot. "Flu season tends to start slowly in October and November, and then peaks around January to April," said Sullivan. But he added that it doesn't always follow that pattern. So the sooner you get your flu shot, the better.