LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - The Centers for Disease Control recently put out a statement warning Americans to prepare for a potentially severe flu season. They say a strain of the flu has mutated, and the vaccine may be less effective protecting against the virus.
Doctors say the flu shot is the first step to protecting yourself from the virus each year. However, according to Dr. Rima Kittley there are many things you can do at home to help keep yourselves healthy.
"Vitamin C helps a lot. Adequate Vitamin D, believe it or not, is incredibly useful in helping prevent all kinds of infections, I recommend around five or six thousand units a day. I think it helps keep people healthier," Kittley said.
And one possible herbal remedy grows locally.
"Elderberry actually grows wild here in East Texas. Elderberry helps very much with helping you get over the flu," Kittley said.
The simple things like washing your hands thoroughly and frequently and staying home when you feel sick will prevent the flu from spreading.
"Cover your coughs with your elbow or with a handkerchief. Also if you have a Kleenex, and you've coughed into, it don't put it back in your pocket, throw it away," Doris Weatherford, an infection control nurse at Woodland Heights Medical Center.
If you do get sick, it's best to get to the doctor as soon as possible.
"Go to see your physician within one or two days of your symptoms because there is an antiviral medication that you can take which will make your symptoms less severe and will keep you, maybe perhaps out of the hospital," Weatherford said.
Doctors say there has never been a perfect vaccine, and each flu season presents unique challenges, but most flu vaccines protect against three or four flu strains. They are still considered the best line of defense.
"I don't think the vaccine is not worth taking. I really think it is because it covers the other three," Weatherford said.
Symptoms of the flu are much like the common cold but can include muscle aches and fever.
The CDC director says the effort to fight the flu is a three-pronged approach: get your flu vaccine, get prompt treatment if you get sick, and take preventative measures