Autumn is here, which means that flu season is around the corner. The flu is not a cold or “just a small bug.” Influenza is a potentially life-threatening illness, and if you have never had it, consider yourself lucky.
One of the worst disasters in history was not a war, hurricane, earthquake, or tsunami. It was the influenza pandemic in 1918-19. It affected 20 to 25 percent of the world. Also called the Spanish flu, the worldwide death toll was 20 to 50 million people. More people died in a single year from the Spanish flu than during 4 years of the 14th century’s bubonic plague. In the United States, 675, 000 Americans died. This is 10 times the number of Americans who had just been killed in World War I.
Public health officials warn us that the world is at risk for another pandemic. Immunizations are one of the best defenses against diseases and epidemics. Contrary to popular myths, vaccination does not give us the disease. It protects us.
Influenza, also known as the “flu” affects an average of 5 to 20 percent of the United States’ population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every year more than 200,000 people are hospitalized and about 36,000 people die from flu-related complications. Infants, young children, elderly and people with certain health conditions are at the greatest risk for serious complications.
The best way to prevent passing the flu is by not getting it. The best way to avoid the flu is through vaccination. Flu shots are available now.
There are steps you can take to protect yourself and others from the flu:
- Keep your distance from people who are sick
- If you have the flu, avoid close contact with people
- If you are sick, stay home from work, school and other public places
- Cover your mouth with tissue when you cough or sneeze
- If you do not have tissue close by, turn your head and cough into your upper sleeve
- Properly dispose used tissue
- If you have the flu, wash your hands before touching food or objects that other people may use
- If you don’t have the flu, wash your hands after touching publicly shared objects
- Clean publicly shared items, such as telephones, keyboards, and faucet handles
- If soap and water are not available, use sanitizing wipes or gels to clean your hands
- Keep yourself healthy by developing good sleeping, eating, and exercise habits
If you do get the flu, be sure to rest and drink plenty of liquids. To reduce fever, stay cool, but not cold. Acetaminophen, removing layers of blankets and clothing, and lukewarm sponge baths can provide relief. Call your medical provider if you cannot get symptoms under control, such as fever, vomiting, or diarrhea. Since you can pass this to others, call for advice and let your medical provider determine if you need to be seen.
There are antiviral medications that can reduce the severity of the flu. These are effective if taken within the first 48 hours of the flu. Call your medical provider as soon as you show signs of the flu and discuss if antiviral medication is appropriate for you.
For more information: www.cdc.gov/flu