Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Four things you can do to fight the flu

It’s flu season in the U.S., and because today’s focus for National Public Health Week is all about communicable diseases, we thought it would be a good time to have a frank talk about influenza.

Because the flu is so common, we sometimes underestimate how serious it can be. If you’ve ever said to yourself, “It’s just the flu,” as you force yourself to go to work or school even when you’re sick with body aches, coughing, sneezing and a high fever, you know what we’re talking about.

The truth is that seasonal flu is kind of a big deal. Every year, the flu sends hundreds of thousands of people to the hospital. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes that anywhere from 3,000 to 52,000 people die every year in the U.S. from flu-related sicknesses. Many of those deaths are young babies and older adults.

That’s the bad news. But here’s the good news: There’s a lot you can do to stop the spread of flu.

  1. Get your seasonal flu shot. CDC now recommends that everyone 6 months of age and older get a flu shot every year. It’s the best way to protect yourself from the flu, and you’ll also be protecting the people around you.

  1. Wash your hands. The virus that causes flu can get into your body when you touch an infected surface and then touch your face. Hand-washing is the second best way to protect yourself from influenza (and many other infectious diseases!). APHA’s Get Ready campaign has free hand-washing fact sheets for people of all ages.

  2. If you do get sick with the flu, stay home. The flu is highly contagious. You’re not being a hero if you show up to work or class sick — you’re putting other people at risk. The best thing to do is to go home and stay there until at least 24 hours after your fever goes away — that’s when you stop being contagious.

  3. Become a flu detective. APHA has teamed up with other organizations to start a tool called Flu Near You. Anyone in the U.S. over the age of 13 can sign up and fill out a quick weekly survey that asks, “How are you feeling?” By answering the survey, you can help us get a better picture of flu-like sickness in the U.S. — and  you can see if there is flu in your area, too!

There you have it: Four simple things you can do to fight the flu. We hope this helps you to stay free of infectious disease this National Public Health Week and beyond!

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