As of this week, all U.S. states but Hawaii are reporting widespread flu activity. Since October 1, 2017, 6,486 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported through the Influenza Hospitalization Network, a population-based surveillance network for laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations. This translates to a cumulative overall rate of 22.7 hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States.
Signs and symptoms of flu typically occur very suddenly and intensely are fever (usually high), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea (more common in children).
The flu can be miserable and even deadly but there are easy ways to avoid it. The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccination as the first line of defense against the virus. Of course, if you forgot to get your vaccine this fall there are other precautions you can take to avoid the flu.
1. Avoid close contact.
Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
2. Stay home when you are sick.
If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or other necessities. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.
3. Cover your mouth and nose.
Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
4. Clean your hands.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
6. Practice other good health habits.
Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
If you are one of the unlucky ones and notice symptoms of the flu, don’t panic and rush to the doctor. Most people should simply focus on getting plenty of rest while the virus runs its course. If you have symptoms of flu and are in a high risk group, or are very sick, contact your health care provider.
Certain people are at high risk of serious flu-related complications (including young children, people 65 and older, pregnant women and people with certain medical conditions). If you are in a high risk group and develop flu symptoms, it’s best for you to contact your doctor early in your illness. Remind them about your high risk status for flu. The CDC recommends that people at high risk for complications should get antiviral treatment as early as possible, because benefit is greatest if treatment is started within 2 days after symptoms occur.