During the months of October and May, many people are at risk of contracting a strain of the influenza virus that is responsible for millions of illnesses each year. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), last year’s flu season was moderately severe, and the number of hospitalizations were higher than in previous years. Influenza (also dubbed the flu) is a highly contagious viral infection which affects the respiratory system. The illness produces symptoms that can range from a fever, severe body aches, dry coughing, and sore throats. Different from a cold, the flu is more severe and generally lasts longer. If untreated, the flu can present other health problems like ear aches, bacterial infections, and pneumonia- which can be life-threatening. Since the virus is highly contagious and is easily spread among people in large groups, such as schools and day care centers, it is advisable to take precautions. Here’s what the CDC suggests as preventive methods for abating the flu:
- Get vaccinated.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
For more information online, visit the website for the CDC at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/preventing.htm. You can also read more about influenza and other viruses in “A Planet of Viruses” by Carl A. Zimmer available in the PSC library.