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Attention Last-Minute Shoppers: Flu Shots Still Available

University of Kansas Hospital Offers Tips to Guard Against Influenza as

Peak Season Begins

KANSAS CITY, Kan., Dec. 21 /PRNewswire/ -- While it may be too late to purchase certain must-have gifts this holiday season, there is still time to get that must-have flu shot. The World Health Organization (WHO) and National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS) have reported 708 cases of influenza viruses since September 30, 2007, including the season's first infant mortality. These numbers are projected to spike as we enter the peak of flu season, mid-January through February.

"If you have not received a flu shot yet, get one now while there is still time for the vaccine to take hold and immunize," said William Barkman, M.D., pulmonologist and Chief of Staff at the University of Kansas Hospital. "It's the best gift you can give to yourself," he said.

"The flu shot is absolutely the best precaution a person can take against the flu," according to Dr. Barkman. That's why each November for the past 13 years the University of Kansas Hospital holds its annual Drive Thru Flu Shot program which provided 3,500 free flu shots to members of the Greater Kansas City community this year. "In addition to the flu shot, some old-fashioned common sense can help as well," Barkman added.

Here are ten suggestions for flu prevention and safety as we celebrate the holidays and brace for the virus's peak:

1. Get a flu shot: Anyone who wants to reduce his or her chances of

getting the flu should get vaccinated. "It is even more important for

those at high risk of having serious flu complications such as the

elderly and immune deficient," explained Dr. Barkman. October or

November is the best time to get vaccinated, but the shot will still

be effective if you get it in December and later. Flu season can begin

as early as October and last as late as May.

2. Wash hands frequently: "I cannot emphasize enough that hand washing is

the single most effective way of preventing the spread of germs, not

only flu but of countless diseases," Dr. Barkman said. Wash your hands

with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds or as long as it

takes to sing "Jingle Bells" twice.

3. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze: Cough and sneeze into your

elbow or tissue instead of your hand to help prevent the spread of

germs from touch.

4. Don't share eating utensils or drinks: These are the most frequent

ways to spread germs, especially at holiday parties where picking up

someone else's plate or drink is common. Although someone might not be

displaying the signs of the illness, they could still be carrying the


5. Avoid kissing or hugging others who are ill: Avoid close contact with

people who are sick. While it might be hard with so many relatives in

town for the holidays, the flu is one thing you do not want to receive

from loved ones.

6. Dress appropriately for the weather: Exposure to the elements can also

mean exposure to germs. Put on those Christmas sweaters and Santa

Claus hats!

7. Practice good health habits: Be physically active, manage your stress,

drink plenty of fluids, eat nutritious food and get plenty of sleep.

Dr. Barkman recommends at least seven hours a night for the average


8. Cut eggnog consumption: Alcohol dehydrates the body and heavy alcohol

use damages the body's liver, which is the body's primary filtering

system. This means that germs leave the body more slowly. That leaves

heavier drinkers more prone to initial infections.

9. Quit smoking: Some research studies show an increase in influenza

infections among smokers compared to nonsmokers. There is a higher

mortality rate for smokers than nonsmokers from influenza, according

to the Centers for Disease Control.

10. Stay home: Dr. Barkman points out that people with colds and flu can

help those around them by staying home when they are ill. "No one

wants to miss a big holiday party or family dinner, but oftentimes by

going you simply make others sick as well. If you are sick, stay home

and rest until you are well," he said.

"Many people assume that they are just going to catch the flu and suffer through it, but that really doesn't have to be the case," Barkman said. "Get a flu shot and practice these simple tips for good health and happy holidays. If you do feel the onset of flu symptoms, consult your physician."

SOURCE University of Kansas Hospital
Copyright©2007 PR Newswire.
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