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Cold and flu season is here

Cold and flu season is upon us and people across the state are already feeling the effects.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, there have already been 80 “influenza-related” non-pediatric deaths confirmed this year and an additional two pediatric deaths.

However, as recently as Nov. 3, the ADPH reported “no significant influenza” in Dallas County.

The department said the outburst of influenza is “not a pandemic flu situation, but a major seasonal flu situation.” A pandemic flu is one in which new strains of the virus are created and nearly everyone is susceptible to infection with vaccines being more difficult to secure.

Area healthcare agencies are reminding people to take steps to protect themselves and family members from the flu. In a press release, MainStreet Family Care, a branch that operates in Selma, issued the following guidelines:

• Wash your hands – A well-known defense against cold and flu sickness is to wash your hands. “Washing your hands regularly can radically decrease your risk of becoming sick,” said MainStreet Family Care Medical Director Dr. Timbo Taylor. “Important times to wash your hands include while caring for someone who is sick, after using the restroom, after changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet, and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. Make sure that each time you wash your hands you are doing so for at least 20 seconds.”

• Avoid close contact with others – When it comes to family, especially children, this tip may not be a possibility, but intentionally avoiding those who have symptoms of cold and flu can prevent you from getting the illness. “Don’t shake someone’s hand unless it’s necessary,” Taylor said. “If you can get away with a simple, ‘Hello, nice to meet you,’ then do so, but if you have to shake hands wash your hands as soon as possible.”

• Exercise – “Working out enhances your immune system,” Taylor said. “Your immune system directly affects how easily you will become sick.”

• Eat healthy – “Eating healthy also builds your immune system,” Taylor said. “Eating vegetables, fruits and plenty of fresh foods can make a big difference. Also, load up on Vitamin C-rich foods as Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant. Some of these foods include cantaloupe, oranges, broccoli and cauliflower.”

• Use sanitizers – “Not only should you keep hand sanitizer with you when you aren’t able to wash your hands, but also sanitize your home, especially while cooking food and if someone in your household is sick,” Taylor said.