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Health Tips for Flu Season
Influenza, commonly called the flu, is a contagious viral infection of the nose, throat and lungs that causes illness, hospital stays and deaths in the United States each year.

The flu can be very dangerous for children. Each year, about 20,000 children younger than five years old are hospitalized from flu complications, such as pneumonia. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend everyone six months and older receive a flu vaccine each year.

Although there has not been an abnormal increase in absences this week at Unadilla Valley Central School, the state Department of Health is reporting that flu cases across New York State are on the rise, with a 91 percent increase in week-to-week confirmed cases.

"Now that flu is officially prevalent in New York, we need to step up our defenses against this potentially life threatening illness," State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said. "Getting a flu vaccine is still the best way to stay healthy during flu season. I encourage all New Yorkers, but especially health care workers, to get a vaccine if they have not done so yet.”

There are many different strains of the influenza virus and they are constantly changing. Each season’s flu vaccine will protect against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during that season. Flu vaccines are made using strict safety and production measures and have been given to millions in the United States with a very good safety record, the CDC says.

How the flu virus is spread
Most experts believe that flu viruses spread mainly by droplets made when those infected with the virus cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are nearby. Less often, a person might get the flu by touching something that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth, eyes or nose.

The flu is different from a cold and usually comes on suddenly. Symptoms can include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes vomiting and diarrhea. However, some people with the flu will not have a fever.

Symptoms usually start one to four days after the virus enters the body. That means the flu can be passed on before those who have it even know they are sick.

Most adults can infect others before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick. Children can pass on the virus for up to seven days after symptoms develop. Some people can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. However, those people can still spread the virus to others.

Washing hands with soap and water (for as long as it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice) will help protect against many germs, especially after coughing or sneezing. Proper hand-washing should be promoted before meals, after recess or physical education and at other appropriate times.
Children should be taught to cover coughs and sneezes with tissues, or to cough into their sleeves, not their hands. Also to avoid spreading germs, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.

If children contract the flu, they should stay home to rest and to avoid spreading the virus to other children or caregivers. They should stay home for at least 24 hours after their fever is gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine. A fever is defined as 100°F (37.8°C) or higher.

Treatment of the flu

Parents of children who are five years of age and older and don’t have other health problems should consult their doctor as needed if their child gets the flu. Most important is to be sure the child gets plenty of rest and drinks enough fluids.

Parents of children younger than five years of age—and especially younger than two—or of any age with a long-term health condition, such as asthma or diabetes, are at risk for serious complications from the flu and should consult their doctors.

Call for emergency care or visit a doctor right away if your child of any age exhibits any of the following:
• Fast breathing or trouble breathing
• Bluish or gray skin color
• Not drinking enough fluids (not going to the bathroom or making as much urine as he or she normally does)
• Severe or persistent vomiting
• Not waking up or not interacting
• Being so irritable that the child does not want to be held
• Flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough.

Antiviral drugs can be prescribed to treat the flu. They can make people feel better and return to health sooner. Medication also can prevent serious flu complications that could lead to hospitalization and even death.

Medication to treat the flu works best when started during the first two days of illness, especially for people who are at greater risk of having serious flu complications. These drugs can be given to children, but parents should talk with their doctors about whether particular flu medicines are appropriate for their children.

Content sources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD)

For more information:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov/flu/
New York State Department of Health: http://www.health.ny.gov/diseases/communicable/influenza/seasonal

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