Saturday, January 12, 2013

2013 Flu Outbreak: Know the Signs & Protect Yourself

The 2012-2013 flu season is shaping up to be a very bad one, with widespread flu "activity" reported in 47 states, according to the CDC. New York became the latest state to declare a public health emergency due to the epidemic, but some areas may begin to see fewer cases.

Below the Google flu map are some ways to protect yourself from getting the flu and, failing that, keep it from getting worse if you do get it.

Google flu map
Google's flu map shows data from around the world.

* First off, get a flu shot. You can find out where in your area to get one by using the HealthMap flu-shot finder at the American Lung Association website. Just enter your zip code and find a location that's near you. (And no, even though it's January, it's definitely not too late to get your shot for this season.) See this CDC Q&A on the flu shot.

* See the CDC's flu prevention page for tips on how to avoid getting the flu. You'll recognize most of the commonsense guidelines, which include:
  • wash your hands often with soap and water or a an alcohol-based hand sanitizer; 
  • try not to touch your eyes, nose, or mouth (these are the prime entry points for germs); 
  • and try not to get too close to people who are already sick
Door handles, bathroom fixtures, ATM keypads, and the like harbor abundant number of germs; try touching them only with a paper towel. Also: Computer keyboards are also home to a mind-boggling array of germs. If you have to access a shared keyboard, wipe it down with one of those alcohol-based sheets.

* What if you've gotten the flu already? You probably know the drill: get lots of sleep, drink plenty of fluids, take medication to reduce the fever if you have it, etc. See the Red Cross's information sheet (PDF) for more tips on what to do if you get the flu.

Google is once again doing its Google flu map (see above), which it has done for several years now, so you can see the relative amount of flu activity across the U.S. and around the world.

For some good information (with a humorous touch) on avoiding the flu, see this article from Digital First Media. It includes advice such as getting more sex (it may boost your immune system), avoiding the flu by pretending you're a detective; and even a link to 50 ways to spend your sick day.

Get your flu shot, and stay healthy out there.

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