Influenza is widespread across more than half the country and the Centers for Disease Control reports the number of deaths attributed to the flu is approaching the epidemic threshold.
The American Red Cross reminds the public to get flu vaccine now and has steps people can follow to help prevent the spread of the flu.
According to the CDC, the number of deaths from influenza is just below the epidemic threshold of 6.9 percent. Forty-three states are reporting widespread flu activity and the number of people seeing their doctor for flu-like illness is on the rise. Hardest-hit are people 65 or older. These numbers are expected to continue in the weeks ahead, and could rise especially in states that have not yet seen a high number of cases. The CDC recommends those who have not had their flu vaccine should get it now.
Flu safety steps
In addition to getting vaccinated, the Red Cross has some simple steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the flu. They include:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
- Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home if you’re sick.
Signs you have the flu
The common signs of influenza are high fever, severe body aches, headache, being extremely tired, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, and vomiting and/or diarrhea (which is more common in children). If you think you have the flu, call your health care provider. Seek immediate care if you have any of these symptoms:
- Fast breathing, trouble breathing or bluish skin color.
- Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen (adults).
- Confusion or sudden dizziness.
- Not drinking enough fluids, not being able to eat, or severe or persistent vomiting.
- Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
- Not waking up, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held or not interacting (children).
- Fever with a rash (children).
- No tears when crying or significantly fewer wet diapers than normal (children).