How to protect yourself during flu season


At least one Bay Area hospital is preparing for more. Regional Medical Center in San Jose has set up a flu-tent near the emergency room for patients. Hospital officials tell ABC7 News it is just a precaution and will be used as overflow if they get too many flu patients.

ABC7 News takes a look at how you can protect yourself from getting the flu.

If someone near you sneezes, those germs can fly as far away as six feet away and if a sick person touches some surfaces, the virus can hang around for a long time. So we asked one doctor to give us some advice on how to prevent from getting the flu.

If you want to protect yourself from the flu, wash your hands constantly and stock up on sanitizers and disinfectants. While the virus is commonly spread through people coughing, sneezing and spreading germs.

Flu victim Frank Basa knows says the flu can spread. He said, "The ATMs, the phones in the conference room, people in the elevators, the buttons."

That's right. When sick people touch something that you come in contact with, watch out.

"Hours actually, the virus can survive hours on surfaces like that," said Dr. Spencer Blackman, M.D.

Blackman is a family physician who highly recommends the flu shot to fight this season's strain of the virus. It's one that's been around before.

"We're starting to see more cases of the same H1N1 strain that we saw back in 2009, which you know tends to affect kids and younger adults a little more predominately than older folks. The good news is that it is in one of the strains that's in the flu shot this year," said Blackman.

"I should have gotten mine, but I didn't. I hope it's not too late," said Geri Wise of San Francisco.

Blackman says it's not too late to get a flu shot. The season peaks between late December and February. And if you've already had a bout of the flu, his advice is to still get the vaccine because it contains coverage for multiple strains. In the meantime, wipe down that desk, wash your hands.

As Wendy Ralston already found out, the flu is miserable. She told us she had a "fever, not so good feeling stomach, congestion, heavy congestion."

Also on Wednesday, the bird flu in North America had claimed its first death. A Canadian has died in Alberta after traveling home from Beijing. He was infected with H5N1 bird flu. The virus rarely passes person to person, but health officials said they were tracking down everyone who came into contact with the traveler to be sure. That strain has been slowly spreading and worrying health experts for more than a decade.

Unlike in years past, there is no shortage of vaccine this year. The vaccine was scarce during the 2009-2010 flu season and 657 Californians died from swine flu.

ABC7 News reporter Katie Marzullo contributed to this report.

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