Health Buzz: How Effective is the Flu Vaccine?

How to disinfect germ hot spots; women and heart disease: prevention may be the cure

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CDC: Flu Shot 9 Percent Effective for Those over 65

You've likely been hounded by your family, the government, and certain health reporters to get your flu vaccine. While that's still a good idea, a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the shot is far from 100 percent effective. In fact, USA Today reports that, overall, the vaccine was only 56 percent effective in terms of cutting the need for influenza-related medical visits. Specifically for folks age 65 and older, the vaccine was only 9 percent effective against this season's most prevalent flu strain, H3N2. "Everyone at CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices meeting was scratching their heads over this," William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University's School of Medicine in Nashville, told USA Today." But it's still worth getting vaccinated, he said. "We obviously need a new and better vaccine, but this is the one we have now. It's still prevented many hospitalizations and deaths." The findings were released yesterday in the CDC's "Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report."

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  • How to Disinfect Germ Hot Spots

    Quick! When's the last time you disinfected your computer mouse? How long have you been using the same kitchen sponge? A puzzled gaze is not a sufficient answer. As cold and flu season takes office mates hostage and sends roommates into hibernation, don't blame the chilly weather. Consider the germs festering in the nooks and crannies of everyday life. Your phone, cutting board, sink, coffee mug, reusable shopping bags—these ordinary objects can be the very weapons that make you sick.

    But we've got you covered. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and coauthor of The Germ Freak's Guide to Outwitting Colds and Flu, reveals germ hotspots and how to disinfect them.

    In the Office. Imagine: A coworker comes to work with a cold. After stepping off the bus, where he likely picked up lots of other germs, he touches the doorknob to enter the office, touches the door of the break room, touches the cupboard to grab a cup, touches the handle of the coffee pot, touches the counter as he pours, touches the drawer for sugar packets and a swizzle stick, touches the refrigerator handle to open it, and then touches the inside of the fridge (where his coworkers' food is) as he digs for coffee creamer. And that was five minutes into his day. "It's amazing how fast a virus can move in an office," Gerba says. "If one person comes in with the cold or flu, he can infect as many as one-third of his fellow office mates within a day." [Read more: How to Disinfect Germ Hot Spots]

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    • Women and Heart Disease: Prevention May Be the Cure

      If you knew you could have stopped that balsamic vinegar from splattering on your favorite white sweater, would you have done something to prevent it from happening? And if you knew you were going to drive into a pothole, causing your tire to go flat, would you have taken a different route? I'm sure you also wish your child had moved the toy he tripped over so that he wouldn't have hurt his knee, writes U.S. News blogger Bonnie Taub-Dix.

      Yes, all of the above situations could have been prevented if you would have anticipated these problems in the first place, but unless you're clairvoyant, it's not very easy to prevent something you can't predict. When it comes to your body, right now, as you read this story, there are accidents inside you waiting to happen: whether it's potential damage from high blood sugar, blood pressure, or cholesterol levels, this is the time to take charge of your health. Many of us are also fighting against our family histories.

      For too many years, I've seen women in my practice overcome with worry and concern over their husband's health. They know every little detail about his medical history, laboratory values, and current medications. Yet when it comes to themselves … their chief complaint is, "I hate the way I look." It's not until I scratch below the surface or consult with their physicians that I discover they have a soaring cholesterol level, or a family history of diabetes, or that they're going through menopause and have a mother and grandmother suffering from osteoporosis. [Read more: Women and Heart Disease: Prevention May Be the Cure]