Know What to Do About the Flu
Influenza activity has continued to intensify significantly in Dallas County over the past few weeks, with sharp increases in influenza-associated emergency room visits and hospitalizations. Dallas County officials reported two more flu-related deaths on Friday, February 2, bringing the total to 54 so far this season. All of these deaths have occurred in adults who were older than 65 years of age or who had medical conditions conferring high risk for severe illness and complications from influenza.
Multiple influenza outbreaks in long-term care facilities have also been reported recently. In the past, influenza A (H3N2)-predominant seasons in the U.S. have been associated with more severe illness, particularly among persons older than 65 years and young children. High-risk patients should be advised to call their health care provider promptly if they have symptoms of influenza.
- People at high risk for flu-related complications include:
- Children under 5 years (although all children younger than 5 years are considered at high risk, the highest risk is for those younger than 2 years)
- Adults aged 65 years and older
- Pregnant women
- Residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities
- Persons with chronic pulmonary, cardiovascular (except hypertension alone), renal, hepatic, hematologic, metabolic disorders (e.g., diabetes), or neurological or neurodevelopmental conditions (e.g., stroke, cerebral palsy)
- Persons with extreme obesity (i.e., BMI ≥ 40)
- Persons with weakened immune systems due to disease or medications (e.g. cancer treatment, transplant medications, HIV infection, chronic steroids)
- American Indians and Alaskan Natives
- Persons younger than 19 years of age who are receiving long-term aspirin therapy
Outpatient visits for influenza-like-illness are above the national baseline. Activity is expected to continue during the coming weeks.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone 6 months and older. It is not too late to get vaccinated. Flu vaccination can reduce flu illnesses and prevent flu-related hospitalizations. More than 144 million doses of seasonal influenza vaccine have been distributed at this time.
The CDC also recommends prompt treatment with influenza antiviral drugs for people who are very sick with flu or people who are at high risk of flu illness.
8 Ways You Can Stop the Spread and Prevent the Flu
You can protect yourself and others by following these key action steps.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle through rest, diet, exercise, and relaxation.
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand cleaner if soap and water are not available. Be sure to wash your hands after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose.
- Avoid touching your nose, mouth, and eyes to stop the spread of germs.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your elbow. Dispose of tissues in no-touch trash receptacles.
- Keep frequently touched common surfaces clean, such as telephones, computer keyboards, doorknobs, etc.
- Do not use other workers’ phones, desks, offices, or other work tools and equipment. If you need to use a co-worker’s phone, desk, or other equipment, clean it first.
- Don’t spread the flu! If you are sick with flu-like illness, stay home. Symptoms of flu include fever (100 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius), chills, cough, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, tiredness, diarrhea, or vomiting. The CDC recommends that those sick with flu-like illness stay home from work or school until at least 24 hours after they are free of fever without the use of fever-reducing medicines.
- Get vaccinated against seasonal flu when the vaccine is available in your area. For more information about priority groups for vaccination, visit www.flu.gov.
Other Helpful Resources
Dallas County Health & Human Services Preparedness Guide
Worker Safety and Health Guidance for Pandemic
OSHA’s Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for an Influenza Pandemic