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Ten states are battling a widespread flu outbreak this season. Children and the elderly are at the highest risk level for serious, or even fatal, illness. Do you know how to avoid getting sick?
While the flu has sickened more than 6,300 people in Colorado alone, and killed at least 11 children, flu season is still a month from reaching its usual peak, authorities at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
How do you plan to tackle the flu season in the coming weeks? Are you depending on constant hand washing and disinfectants, or did you get a flu shot?
To help you prepare for the season, Good Morning America reached out to Dr. Stephen Baum, Chairman of Medicine at New York's Beth Israel Hospital. After answering your e-mail questions on the live show, Baum joined viewers in an online Q amp; A on ABCNEWS.com
Check out the doctor's answers to the selected questions below:
Question: How important is it for those with fatality prone asthma receive a flu shot? Is the virus injected into the body? - Pat Manns Decatur, Il
Answer: People with chronic respiratory conditions are at high risk for severe influenza infections and should be vaccinated. The virus is killed in the vaccine and unless you are allergic to eggs it should not make you sick.
Question: I gave my little girl the flu shot, and she washes her hands a lot, but she has asthma and bad allergies, and so that brings her immune system down, so how can I keep her from getting the flu besides what I have already done? - Sharr Wells, TX
Answer: It's good you gave her the flu shot and it's good that she washes her hands. There really isn't that much else you can do to prevent influenza. There are other viruses that cause flu-like disease and these are not prevented by the flu vaccine. Question: I have been on chemotherapy treatments for the past six months and would like to know if there is some type of surgical (or protective) mask that offers protection against the flu germs that are spread from coughing and sneezing. - Marie Frost Kansas City, MO
Answer: Masks don't work all that well because you have to wear them all the time and they have to fit perfectly. There is no reason why you cannot take the flu vaccine if you are on Chemotherapy. It's a killed vaccine and can't infect you.
Question: My family had a very bad case of the flu about 5 weeks ago. Can we get it again? Do we need to still get the flu shot? - Miriam Castaneda Houston, TX
Answer: There are several viruses that give flu-like illness. Unless you had your sputum cultured and the lab said it was influenza virus (unlikely) you may still get the influenza virus and you probably should be vaccinated. Ask your doctor.
Question: I am allergic to a preservative in the flu shot. I have not taken the shot because of this reason. So what alternatives are there for me? - Johanna Roberts
Answer: There is Flu vaccine made without the preservative. Try and get it.
Question: How do you know the difference between having the flu and having a bad cold? - Maryann Lock New York, NY
Answer: Influenza infection may start as "a bad cold" but then you develop high fever, severe muscle aches, feeling very tired and weak. and in the worst cases may be short of breath. Question: I have a great concern about my 2 12 year old daughter, she is in daycare, she has been in day care for now 7 months and she seems to catch everything. She's around people constantly and she also has allergies. Is she to young to have a flu shot or should she even have one. - Shanda Smith Dension, Texas
Answer: She's not to young to be vaccinated. CDC recommendations are for children over age 6 months.
Question: Does it help to wear a mask over your mouth and nose when flying in a crowded airplane? - Rita Young Carlisle, PA
Answer: It may help somewhat, but everyone will think you are the one to be afraid of. Unless you wear the mask all the time and it fits perfectly without air leaking around the edges, it probably won't help much.
Question: I have a 1 year old daughter, other then the vaccine, which she is getting today, how can I protect her from the flu? - Jim Kwalek Northford, CT
Answer: Not much else you can do besides the vaccination. Keeping her away from others just isn't practical.
Question: Does the vaccine being given at this time provide protection against the type of flu being diagnosed this season? After receiving the vaccine, how long does it take for that person to actually have protected from the flu? - Penny Davenport Attalla, Ala.
Answer: The vaccine this year does not perfectly match the virus strain that's around, but it should give some protection. It takes about a week to develop protective antibodies. Question: With so many people getting sick, not just here but also NM, Dallas and other major cities ... shouldn't the CDC issue a travel advisory warning people about the dangers of coming here (or the other infected places). I'd hate to have some uninformed parent bring their family to Colorado for a skiing vacation and having to watch their children succumb to this new, deadly, flu variant. - Kevin Denver, CO
Answer: The answer is to get as many people vaccinated as possible. The influenza virus is probably going to appear everywhere so limiting travel at this point isn't necessary.
Question: Is there a natural way to boost our own immune system and help prevent the flu? Are there certain foods or supplements that would help? I am anxious to know. I haven't had the flu for years but this year it sounds pretty bad. - Yvonne Stockton, CA
Answer: I know of no proven way to boost your immunity other than getting the virus-specific vaccination.
Question: Is it too late to get a flu shot now (December)? Will I get sick at all once I do get the shot? Thank you so much. - Terri Dallas, TX
Answer: It is not too late to get the flu shot. You should not get sick from the shot (the virus is dead). Your arm may be a bit sore for a day. If you're allergic to eggs, don't take the shot.
Question: Is the teaching profession and the assistants, staff, etc) who work for the schools (with students one on one etc) considered to be high risk? - PJG Whittier, Ca
Answer: Not specifically in a high risk group but I would suggest you get it so when those drippy noses start you have some protection. Question: I am 5 months pregnant and have never gotten the flu or the flu shot ... should I get the flu shot now? - Stacey Hoboken, N.J.
Answer: The CDC recommends that you be immunized. They suggest that you wait until you're in the second trimester (where you are). You should discuss this with your obstetrician.
Question: I got a flu shot in the beginning of November. I understand that the strain of flu virus currently causing the trouble was not in the vaccine I received, although a similar strain was. Will the shot I received provide me with any boost to immunity against the strain of virus that's making everyone sick? - Karin Lomita, CA
Answer: This year's vaccine is not a perfect match for the virus causing most of the influenza thus far, but it should offer some protection. Far better than nothing.
Question: My husband, 21-month-old daughter, and I have each gotten the flu shot. We are planning on coming to Colorado for Christmas to visit my parents. Would you suggest staying out of Colorado because of the cases there? Please be honest. Thank you. - Chrisa Duncan, Okla.
Answer: If you've gotten the shot you have a better than 50 percent chance of being protected. Nothing is guaranteed and the influenza virus may be in Oklahoma before you know it.
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