Flu Season

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Flu season is here. There are many different influenza viruses that are constantly changing. They cause illness, hospital stays and even deaths in the United States each year.

I’m sure Ebola is the virus that may be of greater concern to you right now. According to the Center For Disease Control (CDC), Ebola viruses are found near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa. Ebola is spread through direct contact through broken skin or mucous membranes of the eyes, nose, or mouth. Also through blood or body fluids, which includes but is not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen of a person who is sick with Ebola.

Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bushmeat (wild animals hunted for food) and contact with infected bats. Healthcare providers and family and friends in close contact with Ebola patients are at the highest risk of getting sick because they may have contact with infected blood or body fluids of sick patients. Exposure to Ebola can occur in healthcare settings where hospital staff are not wearing appropriate protective equipment, including masks, gowns, gloves, and eye protection. The cases in the United States resulted from healthcare providers caring for Ebola patients. If you travel to or are in an area affected by an Ebola outbreak, make sure you take precaution.

While there’s no cure for a cold or the flu, fluids and bed rest are often the best ways to cope if you get sick. Better yet, take as many precautions as you can to avoid sickness. Stock up on hand sanitizer and get the flu vaccine. Dodging colds and the flu will keep you happier, and healthier, all season long.

Practice these basic steps to make sure you and your family stays healthy this season:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub. Help children in your household understand the importance of hand washing’s role in slowing the spread of cold viruses.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people. Avoid close contact, such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils. Cold germs can spread by using shared utensils, towels, or other objects. Make sure each family member uses his or her own drinking glasses and utensils.
  • Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat healthy food.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities.
  • Keep surfaces clean. Make extra efforts to keep countertops in the kitchen and bathroom clean by wiping them off frequently.
  • Gather supplies while you’re feeling healthy. Stock up on a few essentials in case you do get a cold, such as Kleenex, plenty of fluids, cough drops, and vitamin C, which the National Institutes of Health state may help reduce the duration of a cold.

For more information, visit www.cdc.gov or contact Shirley Smith at the Hoke County Center of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension at (910) 875-2162 or by email at sjsmith@ncsu.edu.