Influenza (flu) is a contagious disease that can be very serious. Every year, millions of people get sick, hundreds of thousands are hospitalized, and thousands to tens of thousands of people die from flu. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) urges everyone to take the following actions to protect themselves and others from the flu.
1. Get yourself and your family vaccinated.
A yearly flu vaccine is the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. Everyone 6 months or older should get an annual flu vaccine by the end of October, if possible, or as soon as possible after October. Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments, pharmacies and college health centers. They are even offered by some employers and in some schools.
2. Take everyday preventive actions to help stop the spread of flu viruses.
Avoid close contact with sick people, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, cover your coughs and sneezes, wash your hands often (with soap and water), and clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with flu viruses. If you become sick, limit contact with others as much as possible. Remember to cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and throw tissues in the trash after you use them. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine before resuming normal activities.)
3. Take antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them.
Antiviral drugs can make illness milder and shorten the time you are sick. They also can prevent serious flu complications, like pneumonia. CDC recommends that antiviral drugs be used early to treat people who are very sick with the flu (for example, people who are in the hospital) and people who are sick with the flu and are at high risk of serious flu complications, either because of their age or because they have a high risk medical condition.
Learn more: CDC.gov/flu/consumer
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