The single best way to protect yourself from seasonal flu is to get an annual flu vaccine. However, there are other ways to protect ourselves against the flu –especially if you are immunocompromised, if there’s an outbreak of flu in your community, or if there’s an influenza strain spreading with the potential to cause a pandemic (like what happened in 2009 with H1N1 flu).
Government-level interventions such as monitoring, surveillance, and effective public health communications are critical in keeping us safe. However, we can take action as individuals to protect ourselves. The most effective non-vaccine intervention is wearing a face mask when indoors, followed by physical distancing from people outside our households. Hand washing is also important and is especially effective when combined with wearing masks. Face shields, however, are insufficient when used alone to protect us from the flu. The chart below shows strong and effective these measures are.
The National Academy of Medicine launched the “Advancing Pandemic and Seasonal Influenza Vaccine Preparedness and Response” Initiative to harness lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic to better prepare and protect ourselves against influenza. To read more about the Initiative’s findings and recommendations, pleasesee here. This graphic and blog post is adapted from the Initiative’s“Public Health Lessons for Non-Vaccine Influenza Interventions” report.
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