Protection against influenza

Protection against the flu has three parts.

The first concerns the strict adoption of personal hygiene measures by both sick and healthy people, so as to avoid or limit the spread of the virus. So, if someone is sick, they should stay at home for at least seven days after the onset of symptoms and definitely for 24 hours after the fever has subsided. Patients should eat well, drink plenty of water and juices rich in vitamin C, get enough sleep and avoid smoking. They should also take care to frequently ventilate the space they live in, wash their hands thoroughly with simple soap and water before touching any surface, especially if they live in the same space as healthy people. Patients who sneeze or cough should use tissues or make sure to cough into the inner surface of their elbow. Healthy people who care for patients or live with them in the same house must necessarily wear a mask and gloves when they come into contact and wash their hands thoroughly whenever they touch the patient or commonly used surfaces. For this reason, special disposable antiseptic wipes or special antiseptic hand solutions can also be used. The use of nutritional supplements rich in vitamins, zinc and herbal ingredients (propolis, echinacea) contribute to strengthening the immune system. The prevention of transmission is also achieved by avoiding places where people are crowded in winter (e.g. coffee shops) and by regular ventilation of these places.

The second part of protection against the flu concerns the anti-influenza vaccination. The influenza virus has the peculiarity of mutating easily, a property that makes it difficult for the immune system to deal with it. For this reason, new vaccines are produced every year that include new strains. Vaccination not only reduces the chances of someone getting the flu, but also reduces the severity of the symptoms and the chance of complications. Vaccination is now recommended for all persons older than 6 months and must be repeated every year, ideally for Greece in October of each year. Influenza vaccination is more imperative for people belonging to high-risk groups such as people over 50 years old, people with chronic respiratory (asthma, COPD) or heart diseases (coronary disease), people with diabetes, obese people (bmi>30), patients with neurological diseases or kidney failure, patients with hemoglobinopathies or splenectomy, pregnant women as well as those who work in nursing institutions or take care of the elderly or babies.

The third part of protection against influenza concerns chemoprophylaxis, that is, the administration of antiviral drugs to special categories of people when they come into contact with a confirmed case of influenza. So people with serious underlying chronic diseases such as those mentioned above and who have an increased chance of developing complications when they get sick with influenza should receive prophylactic treatment. Those who work in hospitals, who have not been vaccinated and come into contact with a known case, as well as pregnant women in the 2nd and 3rd trimester of pregnancy, also need prophylactic treatment. Prophylaxis must start within the first two 24 hours after contact with a case and last for 14 days.

Angelos P. Karatzaferis, Specialist Pathologist/ Scientific Associate for the GET WELL Natural Corner service
Excellent Graduate of the School of Medicine of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Specialty in Internal Pathology at the Pathological Physiology Clinic of the University of Athens