BY ZACK CHURCH
Lee County Health Department Intern
LEE COUNTY – As Iowa is experiencing widespread flu activity, Lee County Health Department encourages taking preventive steps to protect you and your loved ones from the flu. Influenza or “the flu”, is a contagious illness caused by an influenza virus. Cases of the flu vary from mild to severe, with signs and symptoms appearing suddenly and generally include fever, cough, sore throat, fatigue, and head and body aches. Children may also experience nausea and vomiting. Serious cases of the flu may require hospital-stays and can even lead to death especially among vulnerable populations. Young children (under 5), pregnant women, adults over 65 years of age, residents of nursing homes, and individuals with compromised immune systems are more likely to experience severe cases of the flu.
The flu virus is passed from person to person through talking, sneezing and coughing, and an individual can still pass the virus on to others while they may feel no symptoms themselves. The virus can also be passed from individuals approximately six feet apart. Practicing good personal hygiene habits can help limit exposure to the virus, however, the best protection against the flu is the flu shot.
In addition to getting your flu shot, there are other things you can do to help further protect yourself, family, friends, and co-workers. For individuals with children under the age of 5, it is especially important to keep you and your family away from people who are sick. We also encourage good hygiene by covering the nose and mouth when coughing and sneezing and routinely washing hands. Regularly clean and disinfecting commonly touched household objects such as door knobs, tv remotes, etc. are also great methods.
Flu symptoms typically begin to appear anywhere from one to four days after the virus has entered the body. This means an individual can spread the flu for several days before becoming aware that they are sick. Once sick, the flu can still be passed onto others for an additional five to seven days, and even longer for children and individuals with weakened immune systems. If you have the flu, check with your health care provider when it is okay for you to return to work, school, or other public places to reduce the spread of flu to others.
If flu-like symptoms appear, contact a doctor right away. Complications from the flu can be serious and can include pneumonia, bronchitis, sinus infections and ear infections, among others. Although there is no cure for the flu, antiviral medications are available for certain types of flu. These medications are available for both children and adults and can lessen the severity of the case of the flu or shorten the duration of the illness. These medications are most-effective when started as soon as possible, so immediately discuss with a doctor if these treatments may be right for you or your family.
Help contain the flu and remember the three C’s- Cover your coughs and sneezes, Clean your hands frequently, and Contain germs by staying home when ill.