Flu season is here and more and more people across the country are getting sick. The American Red Cross urges people to get vaccinated now and offers tips everyone can follow to help prevent the spread of the flu.
A report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for the week of Dec. 29 to Jan. 4 shows 35 states are seeing widespread flu activity, up from 25 a week earlier. These include Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Most other regions are also reporting a number of residents sick with influenza.
The most important step anyone can take is to get a flu vaccination. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older. Other steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the flu virus:
1. Stay home if sick.
2. Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
3. Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If that’s not possible, cough or sneeze into the elbow, not the hands. People with the flu can spread it to others about six feet away through coughs and sneezes.
4. Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-rub.
5. Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
“If someone has the flu they should avoid contact with others as much as possible,” said Debi Meeds, regional CEO for the Red Cross in southern Missouri. “Everyone should also disinfect surfaces used commonly such as door knobs, switches, phones, computers and remote controls.”
The common signs of influenza are high fever, severe body aches, headache, being extremely tired, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, and vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children). If someone thinks they have the flu, their healthcare provider should be consulted. Someone should seek medical care immediately if they develop any of the following symptoms:
•Fast breathing, trouble breathing or bluish skin color.
•Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen (adults).
•Confusion or sudden dizziness.
•Not drinking enough fluids, not being able to eat, or severe or persistent vomiting.
•Symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
•Children: not waking up, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held or not interacting. Fever with a rash. No tears when crying or significantly fewer wet diapers than normal.
More information about influenza and how to help stop the spread of the flu virus is available online at www.redcross.org.