Fighting the Flu Starts at Home

Many parts of the state are already getting hit hard with the flu. The latest Alabama Influenza Surveillance Map shows “significant” flu activity in about half the state, including all of north Alabama and east central Alabama.

The ADPH sent out a warning Monday that the state’s healthcare providers were reporting that 3.6 percent of outpatient visits involved signs of an influenza-like illness. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, headache, muscle ache and extreme fatigue.

So what can you do to help your chances of staying healthy this flu season? First of all, consider getting a flu a shot. It’s not too late. The department recommends for everyone 6 months and older to get an annual vaccination. According to information released Monday, patients should request  the “quadrivalent” vaccine, which protects against four strains of the disease, “because one of the strains in circulation in Alabama (Type B/Yamagata) is only included in the quadrivalent vaccine.”

Cover coughs and sneezes. Flu germs are believed to spread through droplets from the mouth and nose. Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze. Make sure to throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands straight away. If there’s no tissue handy, cough or sneeze into the crook of your elbow.

Wash Hands Often. All hand washing is not equal. For it to be effective, make sure you and your family follow these steps:

Run warm water over your hands.
Add soap.
Scrub for at least 20 seconds.
Rinse and dry.

Hand sanitizers are good when you’re out and about and can’t wash your hands. Make sure your hand sanitizers are at least 60 percent alcohol, and remember that they’re not a replacement for washing your hands with soap and warm water — they don’t tackle all germs, and don’t work on visibly dirty hands.

Clean your home. Flu germs love to linger on surfaces that you touch everyday. According to the CDC, flu germs can live for two to eight hours on hard surfaces. That’s why it’s so easy to pick up flu germs without knowing it. You can get infected if you touch an infected doorknob or light switch and then rub your eyes or bite your nails.

Kitchen sponges, dishcloths, cutting boards, home desks, counter tops, floors, sinks, toilets remote controls and hand held devices are all hot spots for germs. Clean and disinfect these hot spots regularly.

Vaccination is the single most important thing you can do to keep the flu from spreading. Healthy personal hygiene habits and frequent housecleaning also go a long way to help keep the flu away. If someone in your household does get the flu, keep the person at home, disinfect and clean your home well, and limit close contact with that person whenever possible.

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