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As most everyone is well aware, we are in the midst of a significant flu season nationwide. Currently, the flu is considered widespread in every state in the United States with the exception of Hawaii and the District of Columbia.
It looks like this flu season will be similar to 2014-15 season and will be on the more severe side. North Carolina has experienced a total of 26 flu deaths so far this season and experienced a total of 218 deaths in 2014-15. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people “Take 3” actions to fight the flu.
First, get the yearly flu vaccine as early in the season as possible, preferably by October each year. Obviously, we are well past that time, but if you have not received the flu vaccine as of yet, getting it now can still help prevent infection. Even though the vaccine this year is not as effective as in past years, the vaccine can still lessen the severity if you are unfortunate enough to acquire the flu.
Secondly, take measures to prevent the spread of germs. Most importantly, wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after sneezing or blowing your nose. Be sure to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in the trash afterwards. Use disinfectant cleaners to keep work areas in the house clean, especially in the kitchen. If you have symptoms that may be caused by the flu (fever, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, fatigue) have someone else in the home prepare meals if possible.
Thirdly, if you develop flu-like symptoms, contact your primary care provider. He/she can determine if you would benefit from treatment with antiviral medication. Except for any visit to your provider, stay home in order to decrease exposure for others and allow yourself to get better. Limit contact with others as much as possible. The CDC recommends that you stay home until you no longer have any fever for at least 24 hours.
The flu is a serious disease and can lead to significant illness and death. The measures outlined above can greatly reduce your risk of contracting the flu. Protect yourself and your loved ones. Let’s all help each other get through this flu season successfully.
Need a primary care doctor? Call Wilson Medical Center’s Physician Referral Line at 1-800-424-DOCS (3627) to get connected to one today.
Ron Stahl, MD, is chief medical officer at Wilson Medical Center.