By Ernst Lamothe Jr., ahchealthenews.com
Unfortunately, budding trees and blooming plants aren’t the only things spreading like crazy this spring.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 40 states, including Illinois, are having widespread flu activity. Once thought to peak in February, flu-like symptoms are making a rare late-March appearance this year.
“Flu activity is still going up,” said Lynnette Brammer, an epidemiologist with the CDC’s influenza division, in a news release. “Flu is still spreading, and the peak is not in sight yet.”
CDC officials say this year’s flu vaccine is a good match for the circulating flu viruses. The vaccine is about 59 percent effective, a significant increase from last year when the flu vaccine was only 23 percent effective overall. Last year, the most common flu strain was H3N2, while this year it is H1N1.
“People don’t realize that it is never too late to get a flu shot,” says Dr. Adeshola Ezeokoli, an internal medicine physician at Advocate Trinity Hospital in Chicago. “I have patients who come in my office now and they didn’t get their flu shot in January or February. They figure flu season is done, so they might as well not worry about it. Then they get surprised when they get the flu in March.”
The CDC recommends the following everyday preventative actions to stop the spread of germs:
While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
If you are sick with a flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care or for other necessities.
Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, as this is one of the methods of transporting germs.
Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.
People at risk of serious flu complications include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung diseases, and people 65 years and older. About 20 children have died from flu complications so far this season, according to the CDC.
“People have to remember the flu is very contagious,” says Dr. Ezeokoli. “The worst thing you can do if you have the flu is try to push it and go to work and spread it throughout the office. People have to use good common sense and common hygiene during this time.”