When you come down with the flu, it can feel as if the virus is attacking your body’s entire immune system. Within hours, you start to feel those awful symptoms of fever, coughing, sore throat, headache, and fatigue.
As it turns out, the Influenza virus is actually attacking your immune system in a very strategic way. When your body gets infected with the flu, you have a set of ‘first responder’ cells, or “B cells” that are sent to defeat the invading virus. Scientists from the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research at MIT recently discovered that the flu virus targets your body’s B cells and destroys them! This initial attack on your B cells weakens your entire immune response and creates time for the flu virus to replicate unchecked.
This new research explains how the flu establishes such a strong foothold in your body so quickly. Now that researchers know the flu’s plan of attack, they can create vaccines to better fight infection.
“This is research that could help with rational vaccine design, leading to more effective vaccines for seasonal flu,” said Joseph Ashour, one of the study’s co-authors.
Don’t let the flu get you down this winter. Here’s what you and your loved ones can do to protect yourselves during flu season:
Consult with your doctor about getting the flu vaccine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends anyone older than six months be vaccinated for flu. Young children between 6 months and 4 years old and people over the age of 50 have a higher risk of contracting flu and should consider vaccination.
Wash Your Hands Frequently
Keep your hands clean and germ-free by washing them with warm water and soap throughout the day. Encourage children to wash their hands regularly and teach them to keep their hands away from their mouth and nose.
Monitor Flu Activity
The CDC also maintains an influenza activity map that you can check weekly for reports of flu in your area.