Flu Season

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Last week’s storm reminded us that it’s winter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), flu season occurs in the fall and winter, in the United States. Seasonal flu activity usually peaks in January and February, however, the flu can occur as early as October and as late as May.

Early treatment is especially important for the elderly, the very young, people with certain chronic health conditions, and pregnant women. Finally, everyday preventive actions may slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory (nose, throat, and lungs) illnesses, like flu.

Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through coughing, sneezing, or talking to someone with the flu. Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with the flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes, or nose. Many other viruses spread these ways too.

People infected with flu may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5-7 days after becoming sick. That means you may be able to spread the flu to someone else before you know you are sick as well as while you are sick. Young children, those who are severely ill, and those who have severely weakened immune systems may be able to infect others for longer than 5-7 days. The single best way to prevent the flu is to get the seasonal vaccination each year, however there are everyday steps that people take to help slow the spread of germs that cause respiratory illness, like flu. These include the following personal and community actions:

  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. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
  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 eyes, nose and mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches 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.

For more healthy recipes or additional information on nutrition, contact Shirley Smith at the Hoke County Center of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension at 910.875.2162 or email sjsmith@ncsu.edu.