So far, this flu season in the United States has been far-reaching and in some cases, deadly. The Centers for Disease Control reports influenza is now widespread in 44 states and Puerto Rico and says it’s not too late for someone to get their flu vaccine.
The only region reporting no flu activity is the U.S. Virgin Islands. Influenza is widespread in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Hospitalizations from influenza are up, especially involving people age 65 or older. The flu can be deadly - as many as 34 children have died from the flu this year. The American Red Cross and CDC urge anyone who has not been vaccinated yet this flu season to get their flu vaccine now.
GET YOUR FLU VACCINE It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine protection to set in, and it’s not too late to get your vaccine now. Everyone six months of age and older should get a yearly flu vaccine to protect against getting sick. Flu vaccine is available in many locations, such as your doctor’s office, pharmacies, grocery stores and health departments. Your vaccine will protect you throughout the current flu season. Several groups of people are at a higher risk for developing the flu, including young children, adults age 65 and older, pregnant women, nursing home residents and people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, chronic lung disease and others.
PREVENT FLU SPREADING In addition to getting vaccinated, the Red Cross has some simple steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the flu. They include:
- Stay home if you’re sick. Not only can you spread the flu by coughing, sneezing or talking, you can also leave the flu virus on surfaces or objects you touch.
- Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer.
- 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.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Clean surfaces you touch often frequently at home, work and school.
- You can pass the flu to someone else a day before you have symptoms and 5 to 7 days after you are sick. Children can pass the flu virus for more than 7 days.
Flu and Blood Donation
Despite seasonal illnesses like the flu, the need for blood remains constant. The Red Cross encourages blood and platelet donors who are healthy and feeling well to schedule an appointment to give. Individuals who have received the influenza vaccine can donate blood if they are symptom-free and meet all other eligibility requirements. Neither the flu shot nor the intranasal vaccine is cause for a blood donation deferral, because there is no risk of transmitting influenza after receiving the vaccines.
Individuals who are not feeling well on the day of donation will be deferred from giving blood. Those who have the flu should wait until they no longer have flu symptoms, have recovered completely and feel well before attempting to donate. Blood donors must feel healthy and well on the day of donation.
More information about how to help keep you and your loved ones protected from the flu is available on this website and in the free Red Cross First Aid App.