It’s National Influenza Vaccination Week and the American Red Cross suggests getting a flu vaccine because there has been a noted increase in the number of people sick with the flu.
The Centers for Disease Control reports an early flu season is underway, that there has been a significant increase in flu activity in the United States over the last two weeks. The highest increases were reported throughout the south central and southeast regions of the country. This is the earliest that the number of people with the flu has reached these levels since 2003-2004.
Five states – Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Texas – experienced high flu activity. Alaska, Mississippi, New York and South Carolina report widespread flu activity with 26 other states reporting regional or local flu cases.
STEPS TO PREVENT FLU The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting someone against flu viruses. In addition to getting vaccinated, the Red Cross has some simple steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the flu virus. Parents can also practice these things with their kids to help keep them well:
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
• Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-rub.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home if you’re sick.
SIGNS OF THE FLU How does someone know they 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 (which is more common in children).
If someone in your household does come down with the flu, the Red Cross wants you to know the best way to care for them:
• Designate one person as the caregiver and have the other household members avoid close contact with that person so they won’t become sick.
• Make sure the person stays at home and rests until 24 hours after the fever is gone.
• Designate a sick room for the person if possible. If there is more than one sick person, they can share the sick room if needed. If you have more than one bathroom, designate one for those who are sick to use. Give each sick person their own drinking glass, washcloth and towel.
• Keep the following either in the sick room or near the person: tissues, a trash can lined with a plastic trash bag, alcohol-based hand rub, a cooler or pitcher with ice and drinks, a thermometer and a cup with straw or squeeze bottle to help with drinking. A humidifier will provide extra moisture, making it easier for the sick person to breathe. Sick people should wear a facemask, if available, when they leave the sick room or are around others.
• Give plenty of liquids (water and other clear liquids) at the first sign of flu and continue throughout the illness. People with the flu need to drink extra fluids to keep from getting dehydrated.
• Treat fever and cough with medicines you can buy at the store. Remember, when children are ill they should never be given aspirin or products containing aspirin - especially with the flu.
• If the person gets very sick, is pregnant or has a medical condition (like asthma) that puts them at higher risk of flu complications, call their doctor. They may need to be examined and might need antiviral medicine to treat the flu.
• Keep everyone’s personal items separate. All household members should avoid sharing pens, papers, clothes, towels, sheets, blankets, food or eating utensils unless cleaned between uses.
• Disinfect doorknobs, switches, handles, computers, telephones, bedside tables, bathroom sinks, toilets, counters, toys and other surfaces that are commonly touched around the home or workplace.
• Wash everyone’s dishes in the dishwasher or by hand using very hot water and soap.
• Wash everyone’s clothes in a standard washing machine as you normally would. Use detergent and very hot water, tumble dry on a hot dryer setting and wash your hands after handling dirty laundry.
• Wear disposable gloves when in contact with or cleaning up body fluids.
CALL THE DOCTOR If you think you have the flu, your health-care provider should be consulted. Seek medical care immediately if you 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.
• Not waking up, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held or not interacting (children).
• Fever with a rash (children).
• No tears when crying or significantly fewer wet diapers than normal (children).
You can find more information about how to help keep you and your loved ones protected by visiting the flu information on this web site.