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Flu fighters: Busting six sickening flu myths

(BPT) – Ready for this year’s flu season? You may think you know a lot about flu prevention and treatment – but being wrong about the flu can make you downright ill. Here are six myths about the flu, and the truth behind them.

Myth 1: Cold weather will give you the flu.

Fact: Although flu cases commonly peak in January or February, and the “season” usually lasts from early October to late May, it is possible to get the flu at any time of year. During cold weather, people are inside in confined spaces for greater amounts of time. This, combined with bringing germs home from work or school, creates more opportunities for the flu to spread.

Myth 2: If you’ve had a flu shot, you can’t get sick.

Fact: It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccination to fully protect you, and you could catch the virus during that time, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Since the flu vaccine protects against specific strains expected to be prevalent in any given year, it’s also possible for you to be exposed to a strain not covered by the current vaccine. Finally, the vaccine may be less effective in older people or those who are chronically ill, the CDC says.

Myth 3: Once you’ve treated a surface with a disinfectant, it is instantly flu free.

Fact: Disinfectants don’t work instantly to kill germs on surfaces. In fact, some antibacterial cleaners can take as long as 10 minutes to work. And they have to be used correctly. First, clean the surface and then spray it again, leaving it wet for the time specified on package directions. Anything less and you may not kill the flu virus, exposing yourself and others to illness.

If you’re including antibacterial cleaning in your flu-fighting efforts, look for a product that works much faster, like Zep Commercial Quick-Clean Disinfectant. Available at most hardware and home improvement stores like Home Depot, Quick Clean Disinfectant kills 99.9 percent of certain bacteria in just five seconds, and most viruses in 30 seconds to two minutes. To learn more, visit www.zepcommercial.com.

The flu virus can live up to 24 hours on surfaces such as counters, remote controls, video game controllers, door knobs and faucets. Use a household cleaner that disinfects to clean these high-touch surfaces to help prevent your family from spreading the cold and flu.

Myth 4: You got vaccinated last year, so you don’t need a shot this year.

Fact: Like all viruses, flu viruses are highly adaptable and can change from year to year. Also, the strains vary each year, so the vaccination you got last year may not be effective against the flu that’s active this year. In fact, it most likely won’t be effective. The CDC recommends that people who are eligible for the vaccine get a flu shot by early October.

Myth 5: You got the flu shot, wash your hands frequently and disinfect religiously – you’ve eliminated your risk of flu exposure.

Fact: We don’t live or work in sterile environments. Germs are brought home every day on items like messenger bags, cell phones, notebooks, shoes – even on your clothes. If someone in your home gets sick, or is exposed to someone with the flu, cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, and discard the tissue in the trash right away. Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Remember that germs spread through touch, so avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

Myth 6: Getting the flu isn’t that big of a deal.

Fact: It could be. Last year was the worst flu season since 2009, the CDC said, and during the week of Jan. 6 to 12, 2013, more than 8 percent of all deaths nationwide were attributable to flu and flu-related pneumonia. In addition to making you miserable, flu can make existing medical conditions worse, lead to sinusitis and bronchitis – even pneumonia.

Bottom line: if you are not feeling well, avoid making yourself and others around you sick by staying home.

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