Submitted by the Bedford Board of Health
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Massachusetts Department of Public health report that flu activity is widespread across the U.S., including Massachusetts, with the peak part of flu season rapidly approaching.
The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older as flu viruses are likely to continue circulating for weeks. Anyone not vaccinated this season, should receive it now. The Bedford Board of Health still has flu vaccine available; call 781-275-6507to make an appointment.
The flu virus is easily spread through droplets of saliva and mucus from the nose and mouth of someone who coughs or sneezes. If you are close enough to a person with the flu (3-to-6 feet) when they cough or sneeze, you can breathe in the virus and get sick. Flu symptoms start 1-4 days (usually 2 days) after a person breathes in the virus.
The flu virus can also live for a short time on things you touch, such as doorknobs, phones and toys. After you touch these objects, you can catch the virus when you touch your mouth, nose, or eyes. Adults with flu can spread it from about one day before symptoms appear to about one week after. Children can spread the flu even longer after they get sick.
CDC recommends prompt treatment with influenza antiviral medications (Tamiflu or Relenza) for people who are very sick with flu or people who are at high risk of flu illness who get flu, including pregnant women, young children, individuals with some chronic diseases, and people over 65. Contact your doctor if you feel there is need for the antiviral medications.
Receiving the influenza vaccine is the BEST way to prevent becoming ill with the flu. Additionally, the following tips can help protect you, your neighbors, friends, co-workers and family during the regular flu season.
- Wash your hands – Frequent hand washing with soap, warm water and disposable paper towels is best. Alcohol based hand sanitizer is also an effective means to clean your hands.
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze – Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Throw tissues away and wash your hands. Staying home when sick also helps to keep the illness from spreading.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth – This decreases the chance that you will get the flu virus or other germs into your body, or that you will pass the flu to others.
- Clean surfaces that are touched often – Clean things that are touched often, such as door or refrigerator handles, computer key boards/mouse phones and water faucets.
- Avoid contact with people who are sick – Avoid unnecessary contact like holding hands, kissing or sharing food, dishes and cups with anyone who has a cold or the flu. People with young children, weak immune system or a chronic illness should avoid large crowds, if possible.
For more information or to make an appointment for a flu shot, please contact the Bedford Board of Health at 781-275-6507.