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CDC Reports Influenza Activity on the Rise: What You Can Do to Protect You and Your Family

Although unpredictable, flu season usually starts in October, peaks in January and February, and ends in May. It came early this winter in the U.S., and initial reports showed a significant rise in the number of reported cases. Over the past few weeks, patient visits for flu-like symptoms have steadily increased, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Consider some timely stats on how the flu impacts individuals, employers and the health care system:

  • 47: States reporting widespread flu activity during the week ending January 5.
  • 554,313: Hospital visits for symptoms of “influenza-like illness” during the week ending January 5.
  • 111 million: Workdays lost because of sick days relating to the flu, reported in 2011.
  • $4.6 billion: Direct cost of flu season in the United States, including doctors’ visits, hospitalizations and prescriptions.

Here are tips for protecting your family during flu season:

Get vaccinated. Anyone over the age of 6 months should consider getting a flu vaccination, especially high-risk individuals like seniors over the age of 65, pregnant women, people with a history of respiratory issues, and those who work in a health care setting. Flu vaccines are offered in many locations, including doctor’s offices, clinics, health departments and pharmacies as well as by many employers.

Wash your hands several times per day, use hand sanitizer and avoid touching your face. There’s no greater preventive measure to help reduce the chance of infection than practicing good hygiene. Hand sanitizer has been found to kill 99% of all germs in 20 seconds. When washing your hands, use warm water with soap, scrub for 20 seconds and pat dry with a clean towel. And make a point to wash your hands or use hand sanitizer when you’ve touched high-exposure items in public areas, such as using an ATM, handling money or pumping gas. Avoid touching your face so viruses don’t invade the mucous membranes in your eyes, nose and mouth.

Increase vitamin C intake. Vitamin C is an antioxidant that can aid in removing toxins and free radicals from the body. It’s a natural antihistamine and increases your immune cells which can come under attack when your body comes in contact with infection. The North American Dietary Reference Intake recommends 90 milligrams per day. Sources include dietary supplements; fruits such as kiwi, orange, grapefruit and tangerine; and vegetables like broccoli, spinach and tomatoes.

For additional information on this year’s influenza season, you can visit www.cdc.gov/flu.

Source: CNN, http://www.cnn.com/2013/01/11/health/flu-numbers/index.html