Influenza (flu) is a contagious respiratory illness caused by different viruses. The virus that's predominating this year is Influenza A (H3N2), and that tends to be more severe. It affects the elderly and the very young, but it is important to remember, the flu can hit anyone. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), we're getting "pretty close" to the peak of flu season, but flu activity is likely to continue for several more weeks. Fortunately, at this time, MMSD schools have not seen a significant increase in our absences, in comparison to other school years. Listed below are some ways to protect you and your family from the flu and how to help to keep flu out of our schools.
Flu is a seasonal illness that occurs each winter. It attacks your respiratory system – your nose, throat and lungs. Influenza, commonly called the flu, is not the same as the stomach “flu” viruses that cause diarrhea and vomiting. Influenza symptoms develop suddenly, unlike colds, which symptoms develop slowly. Common symptoms are fever over 100 F (38 C), muscle or body aches, chills and sweats, headache, dry cough, sore throat, and fatigue and weakness. Most people recover within a week after they become ill, although they may continue to feel tired for several days. Influenza can last longer and cause life-threatening complications in young children, older adults, pregnant women, people with weakened immune systems and people who have chronic illnesses.
Flu is spread in droplets released by coughing and sneezing. It is usually spread from person to person, though occasionally people may be infected by touching something with virus on it and then touching their mouth or nose. People with flu are contagious (able to infect others) beginning one day before getting symptoms to 3-5 days after the onset of the illness. How can influenza be prevented? The single best way to prevent the flu is to get an influenza vaccine. The CDC now recommends annual flu vaccination for all Americans over the age of six months. Other important ways of controlling the spread of infection include the following:
- Wash your hands. Thorough and frequent handwashing is the best way to prevent many common infections. Scrub your hands vigorously for at least 15 seconds. Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers if soap and water aren’t readily available.
- Keep hands away from nose, mouth and eyes.
- Contain your cough and sneezes. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough. To avoid contaminating your hands, cough or sneeze into a tissue or into the inner crook of your elbow.
- Stay home and don’t come to school or work if you are ill. If you have respiratory symptoms (cough or sore throat) and fever of 100 degrees or greater, you should remain at home until at least 24 hours after the fever or signs of a fever are gone - without the use of fever-reducing medicine such as Tylenol (acetaminophen) or Advil/Motrin (ibuprofen).