H1N1 Still Here
What to do to avoid the flu.
Prepare in advance for the next flu season. Print this Article Bookmark and Share! Influenza is a seasonal disease that spreads via airborne droplets and contaminated surfaces. It's highly contagious – people can spread the flu even if they don't know they're sick. Influenza spreads mainly person-to-person when infected people cough or sneeze. Flu activity is low right now, but the appearance and rapid spread of H1N1 in April 2009 demonstrates that this disease can be extremely unpredictable. (CLICK HERE for the Oregon Flu Website (En Español))
A few simple, everyday steps will help you stay healthy and protected from the flu:
- Get your seasonal flu vaccination as soon as it becomes available.
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
- Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze.
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are also effective.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- Stay home if you become sick.
Get a flu shot
Most deaths and hospitalizations from influenza and its related complications occur in babies, the elderly, and people with weakened immune systems. But most flu transmissions come from young, healthy, unvaccinated children and adults. That's why vaccination is such an important part of flu prevention.
To find out where to get your flu shot, visit our flu vaccine locator page or call Oregon's toll-free flu hotline at 1-800-978-3040.
Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. Use soap and warm water. Wash for 15 to 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. You can find these products in most supermarkets and drugstores. If the hand sanitizer is a gel, rub your hands until the gel is dry. The gel doesn't need water to work; the alcohol in it kills the germs on your hands.
Other ways to reduce the spread of the virus:
- Clean work and household surfaces often
- Wear a mask if you have a weakened immune system
- Ask your family, friends and health providers to get a flu vaccination
- Get plenty of sleep
- Exercise and eat well
- Manage any chronic conditions
People who smoke get the flu more easily and get sicker when they do. This is also true of people who breathe secondhand smoke, especially children and senior citizens. Quit smoking now. Call the Oregon Tobacco Quit Line at 1-800-QUIT-NOW for free coaching and advice on quitting. The call is free and confidential. Patches or medicines to help you quit may be available. For more, go to www.quitnow.net/oregon.
Travel and flu
If you're making travel plans, check out the latest news from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) -- and remember these tips to stay healthy while you travel:
- Travel only when you are feeling well, so that you don't spread the flu to others.
- Get vaccinated with a seasonal flu shot.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with something other than your hand – such as your elbow or a clean tissue.
- Avoid introducing germs into your body – don't touch your face.
- Wash your hands frequently.
- Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer; if you're flying, remember that hand sanitizer must be in a 3 oz. or smaller container, placed in a quart-sized clear plastic zip-top bag, and placed separately in a security bin for X-ray.
- Consider carrying sanitizing wipes to clean armrests and trays on public transportation.
- If you're traveling outside the United States, prepare for the possibility of health screenings. China and Japan have screened passengers in the past, and other countries may do the same. To avoid being detained abroad, don't travel while sick.
Stay healthy in general by being physically active, eating a healthy diet and not smoking.
Influenza virus is spread by droplets from coughs and sneezes. Studies have shown that flu viruses can survive on hard surfaces like cafeteria tables, door handles and airplane trays for up to eight hours. Ultimately, vaccination is your best protection from the flu.
When to see your doctor
If flu symptoms become severe, you may need to seek medical care
Most people who get the flu will recover on their own after a week or so and don't need to see a doctor. In some cases, though, it might be necessary to seek medical care.
People who have severe illness or are at high risk for flu complications should contact a healthcare provider, who will determine whether treatment is needed.
If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, call 911 or go to an emergency room:
In children, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
Fast breathing or trouble breathing;
Bluish or gray skin color;
Not drinking enough fluids;
Severe or persistent vomiting;
Not waking up or not interacting;
So irritable that he or she does not want to be held;
Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough;
Fever with a rash.
In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include:
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen;
Severe or persistent vomiting;
Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and cough.
People with these symptoms should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency department.
If you need to see a doctor regarding flu symptoms, but you don't have health insurance or a regular doctor, call the statewide flu hotline at (800) 978-3040 for referral to a nearby, low-cost clinic.