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Cold and flu season is upon us

Published: Monday, Jan. 7, 2013 2:31 p.m. CDT

Like it or not, we are smack-dab in the middle of cold and flu season.

I hope you have managed to avoid a bug and can continue to do so. But it seems no matter how vigilant one is with covering sneezes and washing hands, it catches up eventually.

My family has been sick and, unfortunately, I think I’m next. As long as it’s just a cold, I can count on it to last about 10 days. I’ll probably jinx myself, but I haven’t had the flu for several years.

The DeKalb County Health Department has under way its annual “Flu Ends with U” prevention campaign that emphasizes the importance of flu vaccination.

In addition to getting a flu shot, the health department urges practicing the three Cs:

• Clean your hands – Wash your hands often with soap and warm water.

• Cover your nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing. Cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow – not your hands. Or use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose.

• Contain your germs – Stay home if you are ill.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that everyone, 6 months and older, should get a flu shot. All vaccines are approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).

On its website, the health department has a CDC “Flu IQ” test containing 10 true-or-false questions.

Question 1: A flu vaccine can’t give you the flu.

True. The vaccine cannot cause flu illness. The viruses in the vaccine are either killed (flu shot) or weakened (nasal spray vaccine), which means they cannot cause infection.

Question 2: The “stomach flu” and influenza are the same thing.

False. The flu is a respiratory (lung) disease, not a stomach or intestinal disease. The main symptoms are fever, headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat and muscle aches. Stomach symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, also can occur but are more common in children than adults.

Question 3: Getting a flu vaccine in December or later is not too late.

True. CDC recommends people get vaccinated as soon as vaccine becomes available and that vaccination continue into December, January and beyond. Influenza activity usually peaks in February most years, but disease can occur as late as May.

Question 4: Flu viruses change constantly which requires a new flu vaccine to be produced each year.

True. The viruses in the vaccine change each year based on worldwide monitoring of influenza viruses.

Question 5: Washing your hands is the best thing you can do to protect against the flu.

False. CDC recommends a vaccine as the most important step in protecting against the flu.

Question 6: The flu vaccine protects against three strains of flu.

True. While there are many different flu viruses, the flu vaccine protects against the three main flu strains.

Question 7: The flu is typically spread through coughs and/or sneezes.

True.

Question 8: The flu is not a serious illness.

False. Flu is a serious contagious disease. Each year in the United States, on average, more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications and 36,000 people die from flu.

Question 9: The flu vaccine is available as a shot or a nasal spray.

True. Flu vaccine is also available as a nasal spray.

Question 10: You can spread the flu to others before you have symptoms.

True. Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five days after becoming sick.

So, there you have it – thanks to the DeKalb County Health Department.

Have a great week and stay healthy!

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