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Influenza (the flu) is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can cause you to miss several days of class or work. It can have serious health consequences and lead to hospitalization. Louisiana, like most states, is reporting high numbers of flu-like illnesses.
Frequently hand washing, coughing into your elbow and cleaning surfaces used by the public are highly effective in preventing the flu.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone 6 months and older get a yearly flu vaccination. It is not too late to get the flu vaccine this year and you should check with your healthcare provider for guidance. Getting the flu vaccine does not guarantee that you will not get the flu, but the duration and symptoms should be greatly reduced.
There are steps you can take to help prevent the flu:
- 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. 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.
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.
Studies show that flu antiviral drugs work best for treatment when they are started within 2 days of getting sick, but starting them later can still be helpful, especially if the sick person has a high-risk health or is very sick from the flu. Follow your doctor’s instructions for taking this drug.
For more information on seasonal influenza visit the CDC website at www.cdc.gov/flu or the Louisiana Health and Hospitals website at www.flu.gov.