Flu season generally stretches from October through May and it normally peaks in February; however, the 2013 flu season has been unusually severe in the United States. Influenza, or the flu, is a contagious respiratory illness caused by the influenza virus. The virus is transmitted through contact with infected mucus or saliva or by airborne droplets of saliva or mucus.
Due to the highly infectious nature of the influenza virus, public health officials have made the following recommendations to help you stay healthy:
• Always cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing.
• Throw tissues away after using them.
• Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing.
• Avoid touching eyes, nose, or mouth. This is the most common way viruses are spread.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• If you are sick, stay home and limit interaction with others.
Not sure if you are sick? Here is a list of symptoms commonly associated with influenza:
• High fever (101 degrees Fahrenheit or higher)
• Muscle aches
• Sore throat
• Nausea and vomiting (in some cases)
“I always have a small bottle of hand sanitizer with me,” said Logan Radle of the steps that she takes to prevent the flu.
One of the most effective and easiest methods of flu prevention is washing your hands several times a day. Washing hands with soap and water is the best way to reduce the number of germs on them. Here are five easy steps to properly wash your hands:
1. Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold) and apply soap.
2. Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
3. Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from beginning to end twice.
4. Rinse your hands well under running water.
5. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.
If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers can quickly reduce the number of germs on hands in some situations; however, sanitizers do not eliminate all types of germs.
The Center for Disease Control reported that the available flu vaccine is 60 percent effective, and it further recommended that anyone over the age of six months get the vaccine.
Heidi Young said, “I take vitamins, drink orange juice, rest often, and try to eat a lot of fruits and vegetables during flu season. I also heard that the getting the flu shot was a good idea.”
Millersville University Health Services is currently offering the influenza vaccine for free. They are providing the inactivated vaccine, commonly called the “flu shot.” The flu vaccine will not prevent disease from other viruses, including flu viruses not contained in the vaccine. It takes up to two weeks for protection to take place, and it lasts for about one year. You can contact Health Services at 717-872-3250 or www.millersville.edu/healthservices/ to learn more about the flu vaccine.