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1 year ago
Could This Be the Worst Flu Season EVER?

This year marks the earliest flu season in nearly a decade. Stay healthy by following these six guidelines


It’s beginning to look a lot like flu season—about a month too soon. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 states and Puerto Rico have already reported cases of laboratory-confirmed influenza and, nationally, the percentage of people testing positive for influenza is rising fast.

This is the earliest start to the flu season in nearly a decade. Last year, it didn’t officially begin until mid February, which, although considerably late, is better than the early start we’re getting this year.

Some health officials worry that the flu’s early arrival may be an omen for a particularly rough flu season ahead. And, in some places, it’s already begun: Various Midwest schools have had to shut down because of the harsh impact of the virus. The Whitehaven News in Memphis, TN, reports that at least three schools in West Tennessee have confirmed they will not re-open until after the weekend, and that a school near Knoxville has also shut down with nearly 200 kids sick at home.

“Increasing flu activity should be a wake-up call,” says Melinda Wharton, M.D., acting director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “For anyone who has put off vaccination: It’s time to get your flu vaccine now.”

The good news is that the flu vaccine is widely available, according to Tom Skinner, senior public affairs officer for the CDC, who spoke at a press briefing last week. “There are already over 120 million doses out there to be had,” he said during the briefing.

While the vaccine is the best tool at preventing the flu, the CDC also recommends following these six steps so you can have a healthy and happy winter.

Avoid close contact If your loved ones are sick, lay off the smooches until they’re better. It’s also best to avoid close physical contact with many strangers (like, say, in a New York City subway car). That might not be possible for many people, though, so if you must use mass transit, be sure to keep your hands away from your face until you get a chance to wash them well.

Stay home when you are sick Chances are your coworkers did not ask Santa for a whopping dose of the flu for Christmas, so if you find yourself feeling ill, do everyone a favor and stay at home. Not sure where to draw the line? Check out the 5 times you should definitely call in sick – and the times you can tough it out.

Cover your mouth and nose     Your mom taught you to do this for a reason, and now is not the time to rebel against her advice. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. If you don’t have a tissue on hand, it’s best to cough or sneeze into the crook of your arm, rather than your hand. That prevents the transfer of germs to the next thing you touch.

Wash your hands religiously     Soap, water, and alcohol-based hand rubs are totally in season. Use them as much as possible to protect yourself from germs. To wash your hands the right way, use antibacterial soap, rub your hands together vigorously for 20 seconds, and be sure to scrub up to the wrist, including the back of your hands, between the fingers, and beneath the nails. Then use an elbow to turn off the faucet, and a paper towel or air dryer instead of a reusable cloth.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth The flu doesn’t get into your body through your pores. It makes its way into your body through your eyes, nose, and/or mouth. The most-common way to get the flu: Touching something that is contaminated with germs and then touching your face.

Practice other good health habits Bottom line: If you act healthy, you’ll be healthy. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.

photo: iStockphoto/Thinkstock

More from WH:
Should You Get the New Flu Vaccine?
Alternative Cold and Flu Remedies
Your Body On...The Flu


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