Influenza (flu) presents health challenges not only to us as individuals, but to our families and our VA and neighborhood communities. Flu is a respiratory illness that spreads easily. It is caused by viruses that can change from year to year.
Each year in the U.S., flu causes more than 226,000 hospitalizations and about 36,000 deaths. Even though most of these cases are among people age 65 and older, anyone can get the flu. This is why it is important for all of us to “step up” and help stop the spread of flu!
Step 1: Get your flu shot
People who are 6 months and older should get the flu vaccine (flu shot or nasal spray). Get the facts on flu vaccination. Remember, the best way to stop the flu is to get the vaccine each year.
Step 2: Know how flu is spread
When a person with the flu sneezes, coughs, talks, or laughs, the flu virus can spread into the air as "droplets" from the mouth or nose. These droplets can spread to people and surfaces within 3 to 6 feet. The flu virus can spread to your hands if you touch anything that has the virus on it. If you then touch your eyes, nose, or mouth, you can get the flu.
Remember, people may be able to spread the flu virus to others one day before they feel sick and up to five days after getting sick.
Step 3: Know the symptoms of flu
Symptoms of flu include a fever (usually high), muscle aches and pains, headache, feeling tired and weak, chest discomfort, and coughing. People with flu may also have a stuffy nose and sore throat. Remember, illness can start one to four days after you get the flu virus. Find out more about the flu, including the differences between colds and flu.
Step 4: Keep your hands and surfaces around you clean
Clean hands often by washing with soap and water or by using alcohol-based hand rubs. Clean hands before eating or preparing food, before caring for someone who is sick, before touching your face, mouth or eyes. Clean your hands after using the bathroom, after caring for someone who is sick, and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing.
Keep surfaces clean that are touched often such as phones, light switches, countertops, door and cabinet knobs, keyboards and mouse, and TV remotes. Remember, the flu virus can live on surfaces for 24 to 48 hours.
Step 5: Cover your coughs and sneezes
Use tissues to stop germ droplets that spread from coughs and sneezes. If tissues are not available, raise your arm and cover your face with your upper sleeve.
Remember to dispose of tissues in waste baskets and to clean your hands afterwards.
Step 6: Stay home when sick
Because flu spreads easily from person to person, stay home when you are sick. School and work are well-known places that people get the flu. Remember, treat the flu by getting plenty of rest, drinking fluids, and using medicines that reduce fevers. Find out
more about treating the flu and when to seek medical care.
You can reduce the spread of flu this year. Protect yourself, your family, your neighborhood, and the VA community from the flu. “Step up” to prevent flu!
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Veterans who have health concerns can:
- » Visit the nearest VA health care facility
- » Call 1-877-222-8387