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Tips to Avoid the Flu Virus this Winter

on 02/17/2016 11:40 AM

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While the winter has been uncharacteristically mild, the influenza virus is entering with a bang and spreading throughout the region. Young children, pregnant women, individuals with chronic health conditions and people age 65 years and older are regarded as high risk for serious complications related to the flu.

The best way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated every year. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a yearly vaccination as the first and most important step in protecting oneself against what research suggests will be the most common flu viruses of the season. Flu vaccination is often covered by health insurance and is available through a primary care physician, urgent care clinic, local health clinic, pharmacies and select employers.

There are many easy preventative measures that you can take today to prevent the spread of germs:

  • Avoid exposure to sick individuals.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze and immediately throw the tissue away in a trash can.
  • Wash your hands frequently with water and soap. An alcohol-based hand cleaner may also be used if water and soap are not available.
  • Clean germ-ridden surfaces frequently, such as door knobs and light switches.
  • Keep your fingers away from your mouth, nose and eyes to keep germs at bay.
  • Limit contact with others if you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, but visit your primary care physician as soon as possible to receive antiviral drugs to reduce the severity and duration of symptoms. Stay home from work, school or social gatherings for a minimum of 24 hours after your fever has passed without the use of fever-reducing medications.

Vernon Manor takes preventive actions to avoid influenza outbreaks. "Our residents are in the high risk category. While no more likely to get the flu than typically developing individuals, those with neurologic conditions like intellectual disability and cerebral palsy are more prone to hospitalization and even death as a result of the illness. To protect everyone, employees are vaccinated yearly and are trained on effective hand washing to prevent the spread of germs. To further protect our residents, we recommend all visitors receive the flu vaccine before visiting and refrain from visiting when not feeling well," said Vernon Manor's Director of Nursing, Rebecca Dunnuck.

While the flu season extends from October until May, flu activity typically peaks between December and February. Flu-like symptoms include cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also experience vomiting and diarrhea. While a fever is a common symptom, some individuals experience the respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Symptoms often start one to four days after exposure and can last two to seven days. Infected individuals can spread the virus before showing symptoms, making preventative measures even more important. If left untreated, complications may include pneumonia, bacterial infections, hospitalization and death.

Additional information about the influenza virus may be found on the Centers for Disease Control and Indiana Department of Health websites.

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