Influenza is now widespread in 48 states and Puerto Rico, according to the latest report from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and the situation is likely to get worse over the next few weeks. The American Red Cross urges everyone six months of age and older to get their flu vaccine to be protected and has steps you can take to help keep the flu from spreading.
The CDC also reports more than 4 percent of outpatient visits are for influenza-like illness, adding that so far as many as 15 million people have been sick with flu-like symptoms this season, with as many as 186,000 people needing to be hospitalized.
Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and February, although activity can last as late as May. The CDC reports there is about a 60 percent chance this flu season has not yet peaked and the highest level of flu activity will occur this month. You should get a flu vaccine before flu begins spreading in your community. It takes about two weeks after vaccination for antibodies that protect against flu to develop in the body.
Flu vaccine is available now in many locations such as your doctor’s office, pharmacies, grocery stores and health departments. Your vaccine will help protect you throughout the 2018-2019 flu season.
HELP STOP THE FLU FROM SPREADING
- 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-sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you’re sick.
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 (which is more common in children). If you think you have the flu, call your health care provider. Seek immediate care if you have any of these 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).
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. See all the Red Cross apps at redcross.org/mobileapps. Red Cross apps are also available in Spanish. Search for “American Red Cross” in your mobile app store or go to redcross.org/apps. In the app, go to “settings” and “change your apps language” to switch your language to Spanish.