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Red Cross Tips for Avoiding the Seasonal Flu

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"The best way to avoid the flu is through the flu vaccine and proper hygiene."

Influenza, also known as the flu, is a contagious respiratory disease caused by different strains of viruses. In the United States, there is a flu season that begins every fall and ends every spring. The type of flu people get during this season is called seasonal flu. Flu viruses spread from person to person when people who are infected cough or sneeze. Adults may be able to infect others 1 day before getting symptoms and as long as 5 days after getting sick.

The strain that is affecting thousands this year is similar to the H1N1 virus strain and is causing thousands to be hospitalized across the country.  The best way to prevent the flu is by getting a flu vaccination each year and practice good hygiene skills.

Common Flu Symptoms

  • High fever
  • Severe body aches
  • Headache
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children than in adults)

NOTE: Having all of these symptoms doesn’t always mean that you have the flu. Many different illnesses have similar symptoms.

What you need to know

  • Every year in the United States, on average 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu; more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications.
  • 36,000 people die from flu-related causes.
  • Older people, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications.
  • More than 90 percent of the deaths and 60 percent of the hospitalizations occur in patients over 65.

Ways to Stay Healthy

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective when soap and water aren’t available.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way. Try to avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Flu is thought to spread mainly person-to-person through coughing or sneezing.
  • If you get sick, stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.