The American Red Cross Grand Canyon Chapter is urging people who haven't received a flu shot to quickly get vaccinated.
“Here in Arizona we are no different than any other state in the country in terms of the number of people who have been infected,” said Brian Gomez, communications specialist for the chapter. “It is so easy to spread the virus to someone else without even realizing you're doing it.”
Gomez said while getting the flu shot is the single best way to avoid getting sick, people can take simple precautions to prevent the spread of the virus during what's being called the worst flu outbreak in the U.S. in several years.
“Most of them are common sense but are things people really don't think about.”
While there are many different flu viruses, Gomez explained that a flu vaccination protects against the three strains most common among the states that have been having flu so far. While the shot isn't going to protect everyone, he said, there's a good chance it will protect people from either catching the flu at all or catching a very severe case if they do get it.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, anyone 6 months of age and older should get a flu vaccine. Getting the vaccination is also highly recommended for anyone older than 65, pregnant, a young child or have a chronic medical condition.
Common signs of the flu are a high fever, severe body aches, a headache, extreme fatigue, a sore throat, a cough, a runny or a stuffy nose, vomiting and diarrhea. Seek medical attention if you develop fast breathing, trouble breathing or bluish skin color, pain or pressure in your chest or your abdomen, confusion or sudden dizziness or trouble eating.
Warning signs of the flu for children are being so irritable that they don't want to be held, a rash that accompanies a fever and no tears when crying.
If you are sick with flu-like illness, Gomez said, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone, except to get medical care, because it is the best way to prevent others from catching your illness.
If you can't take the time off or can't work from home, he suggests wearing a face mask around others and keeping a hand sanitizer at your desk or work station.
Since the flu virus can live up to 12 hours on hard surfaces, it's also not a bad idea to frequently wipe them down. Using disinfecting wipes is quick and convenient. Keeping a spray can of disinfectant handy is not a bad idea either.
In general, Gomez recommends covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or a sleeve when coughing or sneezing, then throwing the tissue away. If a tissue isn't available, he said, cough or sneeze into your elbow, not your hands.
Wash your hands after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water aren't available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. Also avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
James Gilbert can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.