Tips to prevent the flu

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According to data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this year’s flu season is off to a quick start and so far it seems to be dominated by a nasty bug. | AP Photo

The most important way to prevent the flu is getting a flu vaccine, experts say. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual vaccination for anyone six months of age and older.

Even though the vaccine may be less effective than in years past, it’s more likely that someone who gets sick will have a milder illness.

Daily steps to prevent the flu

Frequently wash your hands with soap and warm water at least 20 seconds. If those aren’t available, use an alcohol-based rub.

Cover your cough and sneezes

Contain your germs by staying at home if you’re sick

How the flu spreads

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone with the flu can spread the illness after coming into contact with someone as far as about 6 feet away. The main reason you should always cover your cough and sneezes is that the nasty viruses are spread mainly by droplets that spray into the air. People who are nearby can inhale these droplets into the lungs. It’s less common – though still possible – that you could get the flu by picking up an object that has the flu virus on it and then touching your nose or mouth.

Any eating utensils or linens used by those who have the flue should not be shared without washing thoroughly first. Frequently touched surfaces should be cleaned and disinfected at home, work and school, especially if someone if someone in the home is already ill.

How soon you can get sick

Once infected with the flu virus, you can spread the flu a daybeforesymptoms develop and for up to 7 daysafterbecoming sick. It’s interesting to note that children may pass the virus for longer than 7 days.

The CDC says you should expect symptoms to start 1 to 4 days after you catch the virus. It’s possible to never feel ill, yet spread the flu.Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. That’s why frequent hand washing and covering your cough and sneezes are so important.

Sources: Cook County Health and Hospitals System, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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