Widespread flu activity is being reported across much of the region, and the American Red Cross urges people who have not yet gotten a flu vaccine to get vaccinated now. The Red Cross also has steps people can take to prevent the spread of the flu virus during what the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says is the worst influenza outbreak in several years in the United States. Widespread flu activity is reported in 41 states, including Minnesot and Wisconsin.
Steps to prevent the flu
The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting someone against flu viruses. In addition to getting vaccinated, the Red Cross has some simple steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the flu virus.
• Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into the elbow, not the hands.
• Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-rub.
• Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
• Stay home if sick.
Signs of the flu
How does someone know they have the flu? The common signs of influenza are high fever, severe body aches, headache, being extremely tired, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose and vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children). If someone in the household does come down with the flu, the Red Cross wants everyone to know the best way to care for them:
• Designate one person as the caregiver and have the other household members avoid close contact with that person.
• Make sure the person stays at home and rests until 24 hours after the fever is gone.
• Designate a sick room for the person if possible. If there is more than one bathroom, designate one for those who are sick to use. Give each sick person their own drinking glass, washcloth and towel.
• Keep the following either in the sick room or near the person: tissues, a trash can lined with a plastic trash bag, alcohol-based hand rub, a cooler or pitcher with ice and drinks, a thermometer and a cup with straw or squeeze bottle to help with drinking.
• Give plenty of liquids (water and other clear liquids) at the first sign of flu and continue throughout the illness.
• Treat fever and cough with medicines that can be purchased at the store. Remember, when children are ill they should never be given aspirin or products containing aspirin – especially with the flu.
• Keep everyone’s personal items separate. All household members should avoid sharing pens, papers, clothes, towels, sheets, blankets, food or eating utensils unless cleaned between uses.
• Disinfect commonly touched areas around the home or workplace. Visit redcross.org for more information.