5 Things to Know About the Flu Outbreak

Tips to safeguard against this season’s swine flu resurgence

By Lavya Yalamanchi
|  Thursday, Jan 16, 2014  |  Updated 10:24 AM PDT
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This year’s flu season has seen a rise in hospitalizations and deaths across the country. Although the season typically reaches its peak in January and February, this round has already seen fatalities in several states. Experts urge that it is not too late to get a flu shot.

The predominant flu strain affecting the country is H1N1. Back in 2009, an H1N1 pandemic killed over 200,000 people worldwide. Swine flu is not expected to pose a similar danger this time because the current flu vaccine includes protection against H1N1. But the CDC warned that the 2013-2014 season will be most dangerous to young- and middle-aged adults, as it was in 2009. By contrast, common seasonal influenza victims are children and those over the age of 65.

As of early January, the CDC documented 2,622 influenza-related hospitalizations for the season.

In order to properly protect yourself from the rising rate of flu-related sickness, here are five things to keep in mind for a safe and healthy season:

Get a flu shot, even if you already got one last year
This year’s vaccine contains the most up-to-date protection against the circulating strains, including H1N1. An old flu shot will not protect you for a new season. There are also different types of vaccinations available for those with allergies. The flu vaccine finder on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ flu website is a good tool to find the nearest location that fits your need.

Practice proper hygiene
Wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based cleanser after you go to the bathroom, cough, or sneeze. Don’t think that antibacterial gels will be a good substitute. A gel is only a worthy replacement for hand-washing if it is made from over 60 percent alcohol, ethanol or isopropanol, Dr. Roshini Raj said on “Today.”

Avoid touching your phone too often in between washes
Your phone could be a magnet for germs, especially if it’s a touchscreen, NBC DFW reported. Try a disinfectant every once in a while to remove those unwanted pathogens.

Learn how to recognize the symptoms
If prevention doesn’t help you avoid catching the flu, noticing symptoms early on is your best chance for ensuring proper treatment and recovery. Common symptoms include a cough, fever, sore throat, headache, fatigue, and muscle pains. If you think you may be coming down with the flu, see your doctor immediately. Dr. Keri Peterson warned on “Today" that even if you’ve already gotten the flu, you may be susceptible to a different strain.

Do your research
Check out the WHO, CDC, NIH and other trusted websites for more tips to avoid catching the flu. You can also use Google’s Flu Trends map to track the level of influenza nationally and locally.

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