The nation is in the midst of what is proving to be the worst flu epidemic in years with deaths hitting 4,000 per week in late January.
The flu, more properly called influenza, is caused by a virus and impacts the respiratory system – the nose, throat and lungs. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, aches, chills, fatique and a runny or stuffy nose. It’s a contagious illness, spreading from one person to another when someone with the flu coughs or sneezes.
The best defense agaisnt the flu, according to the Vermont Dept. of Health, is prevention. Below are the department’s tips for avoiding the illness, or, if you’re infected, avoiding spreading it.
Some tips to prevent the flu this season:
- Get a flu shot. The Vermont Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) encourage all Vermonters, 6 months of age and older, to get vaccinated, especially those at high risk of complications, see the CDC website People at High Risk of Developing Flu-Related Complications. Vaccination can reduce flu illnesses, doctor’s visits, and missed work and school, as well as prevent flu-related hospitalizations and death. It is recommended to get a flu shot every year. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies to develop in the body that protect against flu.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Disinfect commonly touch surfaces such as doorknobs, light switches, tables, and counters.
- Avoid contact with sick individuals.
- Avoid sharing drinks or other items such as eating utensils or lip balm.
What you can do if you become sick:
- Stay home from work or school. It is recommended for people to stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever has resolved without the use of fever-reducing medications.
- Take flu antivirals if your doctor prescribes them. If you get the flu, antiviral medication can be used to treat your illness. This can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. Studies show antivirals work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful.
- Cover your cough. Cough and sneeze into your elbow or a tissue to help reduce the spread of flu.
There are a number of related viruses that cause the flu. The most common virus this year is H3N2. H3 flu viruses tend to cause more hospitalizations and deaths, according to the Dept. of Health, making prevention all the more important.
For additional information on the flu, visit www.healthvermont.gov/disease-control/flu or www.cdc.gov/ flu/about/season/current.htm.
By Vermont Department of Health Division of Health Surveillance– Infectious Disease.