Flu Numbers Increase – Use Red Cross Safety Steps

The number of people sick with the flu is going up across the country and experts say that will continue over the coming weeks. The American Red Cross reminds everyone it’s not too late for people to get their influenza vaccine and has steps people can take to prevent the flu from spreading.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the flu is now widespread in 21 states and Puerto Rico. These include Alaska, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Kentucky, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Washington.

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GET YOUR FLU VACCINE It takes about two weeks for the flu vaccine protection to set in and it’s not too late to get your vaccine now. Everyone six months of age and older should get a yearly flu vaccine to protect against getting sick. Flu vaccine is available in many locations such as your doctor’s office, pharmacies, grocery stores and health departments. Your vaccine will protect you throughout the current flu season. Several groups of people are at a higher risk for developing the flu, including young children, adults age 65 and older, pregnant women, nursing home residents and people with certain medical conditions such as asthma, heart disease, chronic lung disease and others.

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PREVENT FLU SPREADING 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:

  • Stay home if you’re sick. Not only can you spread the flu by coughing, sneezing or talking, you can also leave the flu virus on surfaces or objects you may touch.
  • Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol based hand-sanitizer.
  • 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.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Clean surfaces you touch often frequently at home, work and school.
  • You can pass the flu to someone else a day before you have symptoms and 5 to 7 days after you are sick. Children can pass the flu virus for more than 7 days.

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WASHING HANDS

Kids have a way of picking up colds and other illnesses. Parents should teach children proper hand washing techniques and how to correctly cover coughs or sneezes. Washing hands properly is an important step to avoid getting the flu. Wash hands with soap and warm water. When using soap and water:

  • Wash for at least 20 seconds, covering the entire hand including fingernails and under jewelry. Younger children can be taught to sing a short song like “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” or the “Happy Birthday” song a few times, which will ensure they wash for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse and dry thoroughly with a disposable towel.
  • Use the towel to turn off the faucet.

If using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer:

  • Rub thoroughly over the entire hand, including nail areas and between the fingers.
  • Continue to rub until the product dries.

 

More information about how to help keep you and your loved ones protected from the flu is available on this website and in the free Red Cross First Aid App.

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