Flu season is upon us, though not yet in full force in California, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). State health officials say that while we are seeing an increase in flu activity in California it is not an unexpected increase, nor is it too late to get vaccinated against the flu. While influenza activity varies from year to year and is unpredictable, California generally sees an increase in cases in late December or early January and it often peaks in February or March.
Public health officials say the single best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu. There also are flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent the flu.
“If you think you have the flu, call your primary care physician who may recommend starting you on antiflu medication,” according to Nilesh Hingarh, MD, an Infectious Diseases physician at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital. “If prescribed early on in the illness, within 48 to 72 hours, this can reduce symptoms, shorten the duration of the flu, and decrease chances of developing complications.”
Additionally, Dr. Hingarh says to stay home if you suspect you are coming down with the flu and keep your children home from school if they are getting sick. Use good cough etiquette by always covering your mouth when coughing and remember to wash your hands often with soap and water or antibacterial gel.
Those at highest risk - the elderly, pregnant women, infants, or those with other health conditions - who show flu symptoms should contact their physician immediately in order to get the most effective treatment. Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also recommends the following:
- Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Practice other good health habits. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
For more information, visit www.cdc.gov or flu.gov.