Most of us won’t be able to get a flu shot this year, sincethe U.S. will be getting only about half as much vaccine asusual and that will be reserved for the sick and theelderly. But there are steps we can take to avoid gettingthe flu.

Researchers think that SARS did not spread to Japan becausethey are a nation of frequent hand washers. Surprisingly,most viruses are spread by touch, not by coughing orsneezing. You should also eat well and get plenty of sleepin order to keep your immune system in good condition.

What else can you do? Exercise regularly. University ofIllinois researchers found that four consecutive days ofmoderate exercise in mice after they were infected with fluprotected them from dying, compared with mice that didn?texercise. As soon as flu symptoms appeared, exercise wasstopped so the mice could recover, but they had a milderversion of the disease. Exercise worked best for the older mice.

Debora MacKenzie writes in New Scientist that despite thefact that two-thirds of our flu vaccine is usually used foradults between 18 and 65, 90% of flu deaths occur in peopleover 65 years old. In the U.S., this is around 35 millionpeople, but in 2002, only about 24 million of them got a flushot. This means that in 2004, the same number of elderlypeople who got vaccinated in 2002 can get a flu shot in2004, and there will still be 30 million doses left over forpeople with diseases and children under age 2. The yearlyU.S. death toll from the flu varies from 17,000 to 51,000.Epidemiologist Kristin Nichol says, “If all doses go only tothe target groups, we may have enough to cover them at pastimmunization rates.”

Biotech scientist Jaap Goudsmit says, “The vaccine industrywill change. This sort of thing just cannot continue.”

People in some towns all come down with the flu?others havean “epidemic” ofUFOs!

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