Boston already has 700 confirmed cases of the flu, 10 times as many as this time last year, and the state has 18 reported deaths from the virus. Nationwide, nearly 6 percent of Americans have already contacted a health care provider about the flu. To combat the problem, Boston declared a public health emergency and will offer free vaccines this weekend. We think everyone in the city and across the country should take that and several other preventive measures, including hand washing.
The flu is now widespread in 41 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and 29 states are experiencing higher than average hospitalizations. Nearly 6 percent of the U.S. population has contacted a health care professional about the flu, up substantially compared to a few weeks ago. More than three-quarters of the confirmed cases so far stem from the H3N2 virus. The CDC says that flu seasons in which that variant predominates tend to be bad ones.
Getting a flu shot won't eliminate your risk of contracting the disease, but the CDC says that this year's vaccine is 60 percent effective. And even if you do get sick despite the shot, your symptoms probably won't be as severe. The CDC now recommends that everyone older than 6 months get a flu shot.
Other important steps to take:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
- Avoid touch your eyes, nose or mouth, which can spread germs.
- Get plenty of rest, regular exercise, eat a balanced diet, manage your stress and drink plenty of fluids.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. It's probably the single most important step you can take to avoid spreading disease, but many people don't do it properly. Want to learn how? Watch the video, below.
Influenza Surveillance Report [CDC]