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Protect yourself from the flu this year

Influenza (the flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses. Although the flu is sometimes regarded as merely a nuisance, it is a serious contagious disease that can lead to hospitalization and even death.

Some people, such as older adults, young children and people with certain health conditions, are at high risk for serious flu complications. The best way to prevent the flu is by getting vaccinated each year.

The 2011-2012 flu vaccine will protect against the three most common influenza viruses this season. This includes an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus and an influenza B virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urge you to take the following actions to protect yourself and others from the flu.

Take time to get a flu vaccine

  • The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses.
  • While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine protects against the three viruses that research suggests will be most common.
  • Everyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine as soon as the vaccines are available.
  • Vaccination of high risk persons is especially important to decrease their risk of severe flu illness.
  • People at high risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people 65 years and older, and people with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease.
  • Vaccination also is important for health care workers and people who live with or care for high-risk people to keep from spreading flu to high risk-people.
  • Children younger than 6 months are at high risk of serious flu illness, but are too young to be vaccinated. People who care for them should be vaccinated instead.

Take everyday preventive actions to stop the spread of germs

  • 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 hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth as germs spread this way.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, the 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. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.

Take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them

  • If you get the flu, antiviral drugs can treat your illness. (Antiviral drugs are different from antibiotics. They are prescription medicines — pills, liquid or an inhaled powder — and are not available over the counter.)
  • Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They may also prevent serious flu complications.
  • It's very important that antiviral drugs be used early — within the first two days of symptoms.
  • Flu-like symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people also may have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu, and have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

To learn more

(Dec. 29, 2011)


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