By Janet Hackert, Regional Nutrition and Health Education Specialist
Do you know someone with the flu? Or have you had it yourself? With the prevalence of influenza in the US this flu season, it is very likely that most people are able to answer yes to one or both of these questions. Here is some information and some tips that may help prevent the flu.
Influenza is generally believed to spread from person to person even as far away as six feet, as water droplets expelled in a cough or sneeze, or even talking, land in another person’s mouth or nose. These droplets also can enter another person by the uninfected person touching germy surfaces and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. People can prevent this spread by washing hands often. It is especially important to wash hands before eating. Also they should avoid putting objects in their mouths. That includes pencils, fingers or fingernails, hair, or jewelry. Also avoid licking a finger before turning a page.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning one day before symptoms develop and up to five to seven days after becoming sick.” So to prevent the spread of the flu, everyone should wash hands often, as if they were infectious. People with flu symptoms, including fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, fatigue and sometimes diarrhea and vomiting, should separate themselves from others. They should only go out to get medical treatment, if warranted. The CDC recommends that they “stay home from work, school, travel, shopping, social events, and public gatherings.” Basically keep the influenza virus contained where the infected person is and keep it away from others. If the person must go out, it is best to cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue, throw the tissue away immediately, and wash hands often to keep germs off other objects and surfaces.
Although a fever is not always present with the flu, when it is, this is one symptom that can be used to know when a person is no longer contagious. The CDC recommends that a person stay away from others until the fever is gone for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medicine.
For more information on what to do with someone who has the flu, contact a medical professional. For more information on preventing the spread of the flu or general information about flu symptoms and treatment, please go to the CDC web site at http://www.cdc.gov/. Or contact me, Janet Hackert, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, at 660-425-6434 or HackertJ@missouri.edu or your local University of Missouri Extension office.