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Action tips to help protect self, others from spreading flu

Published 4:56pm Tuesday, January 15, 2013

News reports abound lately about outbreaks of the flu across our state and nations, with many reports that this season is much worse than last year’s. These reports should be taken serious, as the flu is a serious contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death.

The Centers for Disease Control urges each person to take the following actions to protect themselves and others from catching and spreading the flu:

Action #1: Take time to get a flu vaccine

The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against the flu viruses. While there are many different flu viruses, a flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that research suggests will be the most common.

They also recommend that everyone 6 months of age and older should get the vaccine as soon as it becomes available, and even though we are halfway through the flu season it’s still not too late to get vaccinated. The vaccine is available at several places around town including some drug stores.

People with high risk of serious flu complications are especially encouraged in getting the vaccination. These people include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 years and older.

Vaccination also is important for health care workers and other people who live with or care for high-risk people to keep from spreading the flu to high-risk individuals. Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them should be vaccinated instead.

Action #2: Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs

 

Try to avoid close contact with people that are sick with the flu. If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities — your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw the tissue into the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and warm water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth — germs spread this way. Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

Action #3: Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them

If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can treat your illness. Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines — pills, liquid or an inhaled powder — and are not available over-the-counter. Antiviral drugs can make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They can also prevent serious flu complications. For people with high risk factors, treatment with an antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness versus a very serious illness that could result in a hospital stay.

Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within two days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk health or is very sick from the flu. As always follow your doctor’s instructions for taking this drug.
Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches, chills and fatigue. Some people also may experience vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

For more information, visit the CDC’s website www.cdc.gov/flu to find out what to do if you get sick with the flu and how to care for someone at home who is sick with the flu.

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