Early signs suggest this year’s flu season will be a bad one. Compared to last year, a t this time, we already have had twice as many flu cases reported. While it is early to know the number of deaths from flu this year, the concern is that the number will exceed the 12,000 deaths during the 2011 – 2012 flu season and perhaps approach the 56,000 deaths during the 2012 – 2013 flu season. The season is starting earlier this year and this year’s vaccine may be less effective.
I. How does one get the flu?
The flu virus spreads mainly from direct person-to-person contact through droplets that come from the nose and mouth of sick persons after they cough, sneeze, or even talk. These droplets may also land on commonly used surfaces like toys, door knobs, refrigerator doors, TV remotes, phones, electronic pads and keyboards. After touching one of those surfaces with one’s hands, one may also get the flu by touching their eyes, nose, or mouth with their hands.
II. What should you do?
Getting a flu shot annually is still the most effective way to prevent getting the flu. Everyone over the age of 6 months are eligible to get a flu shot, and, per the CDC, should get one. Those caring for children 6 months and younger should also get annual flu shots. To avoid serious sickness from the flu, pregnant women, those with asthma, heart or lung disease, diabetes, and anyone over the age 65 should especially get an annual shot.
While the best way to prevent getting and spreading the flu may be a yearly flu shot, there are several other important steps you can take at home, work, or school to improve your chances of avoiding the virus:
Avoid close contact with sick people.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water (especially after touching commonly used surfaces). If soap and water not available then use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and/or nose with your hands (use tissues and hand wash).
Surface clean commonly touched items with soap and water and disinfectants.
III. If you get the flu.
If you think you have contracted the flu (symptoms including, but not limited to; fever, headache, muscle pains, and tiredness coming on over a few hours) be sure to:
Contact your health provider right away to discuss need for antiviral medications.
Stay home, if possible, except to get medical care and necessities. Avoid close contact with others for at least 24 hours once the fever is gone.
Cover your nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing.
Drink plenty of fluids, especially water, and rest.