Flu season is upon us here in Florida, and even though numbers are already sky-high they’re expected to continue to rise and peak between December and February. With additional complications from COVID leaving many hospitals overcrowded and short-staffed, this year is expected to be one of the worst in flu history, so we cannot stress the importance of doing everything you can to focus on flu prevention over the next few months.
How Does The Flu Spread?
Influenza is spread through minuscule droplets cast into the air when individuals who are sick with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. Despite what many people think, these droplets spread a lot further than you would expect – they can even infect a person standing more than 6 feet away!
Much like COVID, people with the flu are contagious even before symptoms appear. Once symptoms appear, sick patients remain contagious for 5 to 7 days. Those with weakened immune systems continue to be infectious for a longer period of time – this is simply because it takes their bodies much longer to fight off the viral infection.
You can’t always control whether or not you get sick, but there are several things you can do to decrease your chances of catching the flu this winter. Here at ODC there’s nothing we care about more than the safety and wellbeing of our patients, which is why flu prevention is such a big deal at our practice! We want our patients to be armed with all the information they need to help them minimize their risk of exposure and practice flu prevention not just during the busy season, but year-round.
When it comes to proper flu prevention, here are some tips from Dr. Muzzi:
If You Are Ill…
First and foremost, stay at home when you are not feeling well. This gives your body the important time it needs to rest and recover, all while preventing you from infecting others. If you find yourself in a situation where you have to venture out for something, be sure to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and immediately dispose of your tissue in a trash receptacle. If a tissue is not readily available, cough or sneeze into the elbow of your sleeve – that way your hands will not be sprayed with viruses and will not infect the surfaces they touch.
You might be thinking to yourself, well what if I’m already wearing a mask? Lots of people feel less likely to get the flu this year because of Florida’s mandatory mask policy, which adds an additional layer against the spread of germs. Even if you are wearing a mask, it’s still important to shield coughs and sneezes while in public, and to regularly wash your hands.
If You Are Healthy…
The best way to easily decrease your chances of getting the influenza virus is by getting the yearly immunization. Beyond this, practice social distancing – avoid social gatherings and when you must leave the house, maintain a distance of at least six feet from the nearest person. COVID has increased our familiarity with such techniques, so they should still be fresh in our minds. Try to stay home as much as possible and take advantage of internet services like internet banking, online shopping, distance schooling, etc.
Whether you’re home or out in public, be sure to wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water. If these are not available, use a good quality hand sanitizer with alcohol in the ingredients! Keep your surroundings clean and be sure to frequently sanitize surfaces that see high traffic. These steps will go a long way towards decreasing your flu risk and keeping your body healthy!
In addition to all of that, remember that one of your best lines of defence against illness is a strong, healthy body. Exercise regularly in the fresh air, drink plenty of water, eat a healthy and nutritious diet, and make sure that you’re getting sufficient sleep. If you’re not doing so already, Dr. Muzzi recommends boosting your vitamin intake during flu season. Take at least 2,000 IU of Vitamin D daily (and more than that, if you’re Vitamin D deficient) in addition to 1,000mg of Vitamin C twice per day and 50mg of Zinc once per day.
Why The Flu Shot Is So Important
Things like washing your hands and sanitizing surfaces are important, but the most important thing you can do to protect yourself from the flu is getting a flu shot. The flu is notorious for leading to more serious diseases like pneumonia, so as you consider your flu shot this year please keep in mind that you may have loved ones with comorbidities, suppressed immune systems, or other high-risk factors. Even if you are young, healthy, and spry, you could easily cause a case of pneumonia in a weak family member unintentionally by leaving yourself unprotected against the flu.
We get a lot of questions from patients each year about the flu vaccine, but one of the most common is “why do I need a flu shot every year?” Unfortunately the flu virus keeps evolving year after year, which means that the flu shot you were given last year will most likely be ineffective this year. Each year, scientists and vaccine developers do extensive research to formulate a new flu vaccine based on their predictions for which virus strains will make an appearance in the coming flu season. It may not always be foolproof, but it will decrease your chances of getting the flu regardless of which strain pops up this flu season.
Flu Shots For ODC Members
Optimum Direct Care in Orlando, Florida administers flu vaccinations to its members as part of the yearly membership package. The only cost to patients is the cost of the vaccine itself, which is a low $20. We inform all of our members before the advent of flu season and encourage everyone to get their influenza vaccine as soon as we get them in stock. This ensures that you and your family are adequately protected even before there are local cases.
With a ‘Patient First’ culture here at ODC, patients have unlimited access to Direct Primary Care services for a simple membership fee. We provide longer visits with our board-certified DPC physician, Dr. Toni “Muzzi” Muzzonigro, so she can address all of each patient’s needs and offer same-day or next-day availability to our patients so they don’t spend days waiting for care if they do become ill. For sick patients or those who are nervous to leave the house, telehealth appointments are available free of charge!
If you’re looking for a new family physician for 2021 and are becoming tired of the impersonal, rushed way in which the health care system operates, check out our membership benefits and see how you and your family can benefit from Direct Primary Care!