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.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report for the week of Dec. 29 to Jan. 4 shows 35 states are seeing widespread flu activity, up from 25 a week earlier. These states 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.
According to the Polk County Health Department, surveillance data in Iowa shows that while still relatively low, influenza activity is increasing and that the dominant strain is H1N1, which can pose a higher risk for complications such as pneumonia and hospitalizations in very young children and pregnant women. The good news is the strain was included in this year’s flu vaccination.
STEPS TO PREVENT FLU
The most important step someone can take is to get a flu vaccine. 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 Kara Kelly, Regional Communications Officer, American Red Cross serving Greater Iowa. "Everyone should also disinfect surfaces used commonly such as door knobs, switches, phones, computers and remote controls."
DO I HAVE THE FLU?
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 health-care 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.
· Flu-like 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 on www.redcross.org.