MANILA,  April 8, 2009
(STAR) School’s over and everyone must be busy planning for his or her vacation break. But apart from choosing which beach or mountain getaway to go to, one should also worry about the one thing that could ruin everything: influenza.

Influenza, commonly called the flu, is highly contagious and potentially dangerous for very young children, the elderly, and people with certain medical conditions such as cancer, chronic lung or kidney disease, diabetes, or a weakened immune system that may be quickly overwhelmed by the virus.

For most healthy children and adults, influenza will be serious enough to require bed rest, but most will recover within a week.

However, for these high-risk individuals, they could suffer from pneumonia and other complications such as bronchitis, sinusitis, ear infection and meningitis (inflammation of the lining that covers the brain).

Kept to a minimum

“Transmission should be kept to a minimum because an infected person could spread the virus even that person is not yet showing the symptoms,’’ said Dr. Lyndon Lee Suy, program manager of the Department of Health’s Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Disease.

He explained that when a person infected with the virus sneezes or coughs, the virus can be passed through the air to an uninfected person in tiny droplets of saliva.

“Even if you sneeze on your hand and touch a doorknob, there is a chance you may still transmit the virus to someone else,” he said.

June would be the start of the so-called flu peak season, a period (that lasts until September) here in the Philippines where there is a regular outbreak in flu cases.

Get immunized

This is why health authorities, this early, are already urging those who haven’t yet gotten a flu shot to get immunized.

The flu shot is still the most effective in preventing severe illness, secondary complications, and deaths related to the flu.

Lee Suy said it takes weeks for the flu shot to work and make the person fully immunized.

“Early vaccination gives assurance that antibodies will develop before the peak flu season, a period when the population is more likely to get infected with the virus. However, if you are exposed to the flu during this period when your body is still building immunity, the vaccine could still make your illness less severe,” he said.

He said getting the flu shot is one of the most effective ways to prevent its spread.

To know more about flu, visit or ask a doctor about it.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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