Each year as summer turns to fall and winter, the flu bug spreads among the human population.
The flu virus can spread directly and indirectly. Tiny droplets expelled when someone coughs or sneezes or talks can spread the virus if it lands on another person or is inhaled.
Believe it or not, the virus can live as long as 24-hours on hard surfaces, so you can get the flu by touching objects infected with the virus and then touching your nose, mouth or eyes.
Experts estimate between 5 and 20 percent of the population comes down with the flu each year. It’s a serious illness that results in hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths each year.
Of course, the surest way to avoid the flu is to avoid sick people, but that’s virtually impossible for most of us.
The Centers for Disease Control recommend the best way to protect yourself from the flu is getting a flu shot, but they also acknowledge the effectiveness of the vaccination depends on how well vaccine doctors predict the most common strains of the virus that will be active. Some years the vaccine is more effective than others. Some years the flu shot is 70-percent effective. Other years, it doesn’t fare as well. And since the vaccine is made with a killed virus, it is impossible to get the flu from a flu shot. The CDC recommends getting a flu shot by the end of October.
It takes time for your body to develop immunity and develop antibodies after getting the vaccine — usually about two weeks.
Some residents refuse to get the flu shot, and that’s their right, but there are still ways to reduce your chances of getting sick, and those who receive the vaccine can follow these practices as well.
The CDC also recommends preventative actions one can take — avoiding people who are sick, properly covering coughs and sneezes into a tissue or sleeve and proper hand washing.
Don’t touch your face
Germs can spread when you touch something an infected person has touched and then you touch your face, especially your eyes, nose or mouth. The virus can’t spread through your skin, but it can spread through the mucosal membrane in your mouth, nose or eyes.
Is it a cold or the flu?
Sometimes it can be hard to tell if an illness is a cold or the flu. Generally, a cold affects the upper respiratory tract with symptoms such as a runny nose, sneezing and sometimes a low-grade fever, especially in infants.
The flu affects the lower respiratory tract, impacting the lungs (and that’s what makes it so dangerous for seniors or those with chronic health conditions). The fever is higher with the flu, sometimes accompanied with vomiting. Antibiotics are not effective against the flu, but antiviral medications such as Tamiflu can may reduce the duration of your illness if taken with two days of when symptoms appear.
Stay at home if you’re sick
If you’re sick, and you don’t want to spread the disease, stay home. Running errands or going to school if you’re sick puts others at risk.
The CDC advises people who are not using a fever-reducing medicine to stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone.