Beware the flu!

Flu season is upon us.
Both Ohio and Indiana are reporting widespread levels of influenza-like illness. The Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) weekly FluView report shows that tests have been positive for both influenza A and B this season. But the predominant strain this year has been the H1N1 virus – the same virus that caused the flu pandemic in 2009.
Symptoms of influenza include fever, cough, muscle aches, headache and fatigue. The illness usually lasts about a week (although it can vary from a few days to a couple of weeks). Most people with the flu will have mild symptoms. But some people – especially pregnant women, young children, older people or people with lung problems or a weak immune system – will be sick enough to require hospitalization. There have been a number of deaths due to influenza reported this year as well.
Contrary to popular belief, the flu seldom causes vomiting or diarrhea.
The flu is spread from one person to another when we cough, sneeze or even talk. With normal conversation, a person is contagious within a distance of about 3 feet. However, with coughing or sneezing, the contagious zone doubles! If you cough or sneeze into your hands, you can also spread the flu by the germs you leave on things you touch. So it's very important to wash your hands or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer frequently.
There is treatment available for the flu if you act within the first 48 hours. That treatment is an antiviral medication. Unfortunately, the medication does not kill the flu virus (like an antibiotic would kill a bacterial infection), but it can shorten the illness by a day or two, lessen the symptoms, and lower the risk of developing serious complications of the flu. However, the antiviral medication is not recommended for all people, just those who are in the high-risk groups, have severe illness or are in the hospital. The CDC can help you identify whether or not you are at high risk.
My advice is to prevent yourself from getting sick by getting vaccinated! It's not too late to get this year's flu vaccine, which does include the H1N1 virus that is so prevalent this year (as well as other influenza A and B strains). 
For more information on the vaccine, check out my previous blog post, “Who needs a flu shot?.”
I’m hoping you stay healthy and avoid the flu this season!

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