We are right in the middle of winter, although I say that tongue in cheek for those of us in Florida, as we have seen only a mild seasonal change. However, we are also right in the middle of cold and flu season, which runs Oct. 1 through March 31 annually.
A number of states have started to see an increase in flu activity. You can follow a weekly map of influenza activity at https://www.cdc.gov/flu/weekly/usmap.htm.
It is important to know how the flu virus is spread:
Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with the virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes or nose. Many other viruses spread these ways, too. People infected with flu may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. That means you may be able to spread the flu not only while you are sick, but also before you even know you are ill. Young children, people who are severely ill and those who have severely weakened immune systems may be able to infect others for longer than five to seven days.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a three-step approach to fighting the flu:
- The first and most important step is to get a flu shot each year. The single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated (https://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm). Check with your health care provider about receiving the flu vaccine. It’s not too late to get vaccinated this season.
- If you get the flu, there are prescription antiviral drugs that can treat your illness. Early treatment is especially important for the elderly, the very young, people with certain chronic health conditions and pregnant women.
- Finally, everyday preventive actions may slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory illnesses including the flu.
Prevention actions include:
- Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting ill, too.
- Stay home when you are sick. If possible, stay home from errands, work and school when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
- Cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.
- Practice other good health habits. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.
For more information, call 1-800-CDC-INFO.