The following are some steps to help protect against the flu:
• Wash hands often with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub.
• Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.
• Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
• Practice good health habits. Get plenty of sleep and exercise, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat healthy food.
• Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. Throw the tissue in the trash when finished.
• If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
If you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, you may want to soon.
According to leaders of local health organizations, flu vaccine is starting to run low after a busier than normal season.
“There is some [vaccine] left,” said Alison Ward, nurse manager with the Forsyth County Health Department. “But I think just about everywhere is starting to run low on their supply because we’ve had a pretty good demand this year.”
Ward said about 1,900 adult doses and about 650 children’s doses have been administered through the department. Those numbers don’t account for vaccines given through private doctors’ offices and pharmacies.
“It was a little bit more this year, especially with the kids because we did a school-based flu clinic in the fall,” Ward said. “We were able to target the kids and open it up [to all the public schools] so we definitely did more kid [vaccines] than usual, but adult is pretty much the same as most years.”
Dave Palmer, public information officer with District 2 Public Health, which includes Forsyth and 12 other northeast Georgia counties, said there have been more cases of flu this season than in the past.
The season typically runs from about September to May, he said.
“Going by the information from the [Centers for Disease Control] and our state public health office, there are increased cases of flu activity this year over what we’ve seen the past few years, probably since 2009,” he said.
Palmer said it’s difficult to know what causes some flu seasons to be worse than others, but it’s typically a cumulative effect.
“Flu’s kind of unpredictable … there’s been some research, but it’s not conclusive about the spread of the germ and how it stays in the air,” he said. “It’s just from year to year, I guess, as more people get sick, more people spread it.
“It’s one of those kind of a snowball effects. Somebody gets sick and they spread it, more people get sick and it spreads because it is fairly easily caught, and the germ spreads.”
Palmer said among the best ways to avoid the flu are common-sense practices such as frequent hand washing, using hand sanitizer after you’ve touched something that many others have, such as a shopping cart, and avoiding those who are sick.
And if you or your child becomes sick, Palmer said, it’s best to stay home from work and school to avoid spreading the germs.
Of course one of the surest ways to prevent infection, he said, is to get a flu shot each flu season. And it’s probably best to get one early on.
“We always push people to go ahead and get their flu shots as early as possible because it takes a couple of weeks for the immunity to build up and then they’re covered for the worst of the season if they go ahead and get it early,” he said.
But, like Ward, Palmer said it’s not too late if you haven’t gotten a flu shot, though you probably shouldn’t delay.
“I know that all of our counties are getting toward the end of their supply,” he said. “They still have some vaccine remaining and so if anyone wanted to get the flu shot, they could go ahead and get it.
“It would be a wise thing to go ahead and do because it would protect them from now until the next flu season.”