Take steps to protect yourself and others

It’s that time of year again — flu season,

All across the nation — and around the globe, for that matter — there are widespread reports of a serious strain of influenza. Unfortunately, creators of this year’s vaccine against the illness seem to have missed the mark. Reports indicate the vaccine may be only 10 percent effective in preventing contraction of the flu.

That doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself from this nasty bug, though. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says we can all take a few simple steps that will help prevent us from becoming ill with the flu.

First and foremost, the CDC recommends getting a yearly flu vaccine. While inoculation may be less effective than usual this year, the vaccine typically does a good job of protecting against the flu.

Vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older. This is especially true for the elderly, the very young and those with compromised immune systems.

The shot is available through doctor’s offices, some pharmacies and other outlets.

The CDC also suggests that people take everyday precautions to prevent contracting the flu. These include avoiding contact with others who are ill, as well as limiting contact with others if you become sick. Cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze or cough, and throw your tissue away after using it.

Perhaps the most important advice offered by the CDC is to wash your hands frequently. Use soap and warm water, and use an alcohol-based sanitizer if hand washing is not an available option.

The CDC also suggests that people avoid touching their mouth, nose and eyes in an effort to limit spreading germs. Surfaces that may be contaminated with flu germs should be cleaned and disinfected.

Finally, the CDC recommends taking antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them. They are not available over the counter, but they may make an illness more mild or reduce the length of time you are sick.