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Worried about the Flu? Wash Your Hands Often and Stay Healthy

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By Samer Koutoubi, M.D., Ph.D.
Program Director and Faculty Member, Public Health at American Public University

More flu cases have been reported this year than in 2017. In addition, more people have been hospitalized with the flu virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that the number of people who have seen healthcare providers for the flu is the highest since 2004.

Which Populations Are Most at Risk of Flu?

People who are at higher risk of getting the flu include:

  • Infants and other children
  • The elderly
  • Pregnant women
  • People with chronic diseases and immune-compromised systems

According to the CDC, 30 children have died from the flu so far this year. That number may increase if children do not get a flu shot. Check the CDC's FluView, an influenza-like illness state activity indicator map, to see if your state is more affected than other states.

The Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in the Influenza Division at CDC collects, compiles and analyzes information on influenza activity year-round in the United States and produces weekly influenza surveillance reports. The CDC’s FluView and FluView Interactive offer more in-depth exploration of influenza surveillance data. Additional information is available at Overview of Influenza Surveillance in the United States.

What Are the Symptoms of Flu?

If you have contracted the flu, you may experience respiratory symptoms such as coughing, a sore throat, difficulty breathing and a runny nose. There may also be gastrointestinal symptoms, such as vomiting and diarrhea. Dizziness, confusion, severe headache, muscle pain, and weakness are other common flu symptoms. These symptoms can last one week or more.

To prevent the flu, wash your hands for up to 20 seconds every time you cough or sneeze. Flu germs can survive for hours on any surface.

For Relief, Try Over-the-Counter Medicines, Bed Rest and Liquids

For your muscle pain and headache, try Tylenol or ibuprofen. If you feel congested and have a runny nose, try a decongestant medication to help you breathe better.

Do not take antibiotics, because they are only effective against bacteria and not viruses such as the flu. If you have infections and already taking antibiotics, continue to take them.

If you have flu symptoms and also suffer from other medical conditions, you may need additional medications. Check with your healthcare provider as soon as possible.

If you suspect you have the flu, stay home and get lots of rest. You need to remain hydrated, so drink lots of liquids.

Inform your employer that you are sick and can’t go to work. It is essential to avoid contact with other people until you are well.

Consider Getting a Flu Shot

If you have not received the flu vaccine, it is not too late. Just remember that the flu shot cannot give you the flu.

The CDC recommends the use of injectable influenza vaccines during 2018, but not the nasal spray flu vaccine. There is more than one type of flu shot available. For more information, please check the CDC website.

Let’s all stay healthy during this flu season.

About the Author
Dr. Koutoubi earned his Ph.D. in Dietetics and Nutrition from Florida International University in 2001. He earned his M.D. degree in 1988 from Iuliu Hațieganu University of Medicine and Pharmacy in Cluj-Napoca, Romania. Dr. Koutoubi’s research focuses on coronary heart disease among tri-ethnic groups including African-Americans, Caucasians and Hispanics. His interest is in disease prevention and wellness, epidemiological research, cardiovascular disease and nutrition, homocysteine metabolism, lipoprotein metabolism, and cultural food and health. Dr. Koutoubi has also authored a number of articles in peer-reviewed journals and written a book review. He served as the Editor-in-Chief for The Internet Journal of Alternative Medicine and reviewed manuscripts for The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Ethnicity and Disease Journal, European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, and The Journal of The National Medical Association. Dr. Koutoubi has written for several blogs, such as In Homeland Security, Online Learning Tips, MultiBriefs, Medium and Healthcare POV. He has also been quoted in national magazines and newspapers, including Natural Health Magazine, Energy Time, Well Being Journal, Northwest Prime Time and Natural Food Merchandiser.