The flu has officially reached the epidemic level, with 7.3% of deaths last week attributed to the flu and pneumonia, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced today. Already one of the worst outbreaks in recent history, the seasonal flu is widespread in 47 states.
Public health expert and Chamberlain Associate Professor Paulette (Pam) Zachman, PhD, RN, PHCNS-BC, CNE, weighs in below with her tips to protect yourself during the 2012-13 flu season:
Get your flu shot!
The recommended time for flu shots is usually in the fall of each year, but it is not too late to still get one. Not only will you protect yourself, you will help to prevent the spread of the flu to those around you; especially those who are at high risk for complication such as the elderly and young infants.
Wash your hands often
If soap and water are not available, use a hand sanitizer. Also, avoid touching your mouth or eyes. Any virus that you might have picked up on your hands can be transferred to locations such as your mouth or eyes where the virus can easily infect you.
Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects
The flu virus can live on hard surfaces (door knobs or computer key boards for example) from two to eight hours.
Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
If a tissue is not available, use your upper sleeve or elbow. Avoid coughing or sneezing into your hands.
Know the symptoms of the flu (seasonal influenza)
The flu is a respiratory illness with symptoms of high fever, headache, tiredness, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, and muscle aches. What is commonly referred to as the “stomach flu” with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea is caused by many different organisms, but not the influenza virus. If you do have flu symptoms, consult your health care provider. Most people recover without any medication, but antiviral medications may shorten the time you are sick and help prevent serious complication from the flu.
By Molly Mattison
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