In Texas, flu season typically begins in mid-October and lasts through April. On average one to five million Texans become ill with the flu each year. Your best defense is to get all your flu shots and to practice good hygiene habits:
- Clean your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Cover your cough and sneeze into your sleeve.
- Stay home when you are sick.
How should Texans get prepared for a flu emergency?
Planning for a flu emergency is more important this year than ever. If outbreaks become severe, commercial and community activities could be disrupted for extended periods of time. That means you need to stock up on essentials now. Be sure to add these items that are specific to flu emergencies to your disaster supplies kit:
- Two-week supply of food, water and prescription medications
- Over-the-counter fever-reducing medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Plenty of hand soap and alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Extra tissues
- Bleach, disinfectants and other cleaning products that kill flu viruses
- Extra paper towels or disinfectant wipes
- Surgical masks to protect yourself when caring for sick family members
As you make your plans, consider the following situations:
- If schools close, what are your plans for childcare?
- Can you work from home to minimize exposure?
- Who will care for sick family members?
Quick Facts about Flu:
What are the symptoms of flu?
Symptoms of flu come on suddenly, one to four days after a flu virus enters the body. These symptoms include:
- Sudden fever (100.4° F or more)
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
- Body aches
- Dry cough
- Nasal congestion
Children also may have an ear infection, nausea or vomiting. Young children with flu can develop high fevers and seizures. Generally, people start feeling better after the body's temperature returns to normal, in about three days, and are ready to return to their normal activities in about a week. Tiredness and a cough may linger for several more weeks.
How do you get the flu?
Flu is very contagious. It can be caught from breathing in droplets in the air when someone infected with flu sneezes, coughs or talks. The flu also is spread when people touch something with flu viruses on it such as a doorknob or handrail, and then touch their eyes, nose or mouth.
What is a flu pandemic?
A pandemic is a global disease outbreak. A flu pandemic occurs when a new strain of flu to which people have little or no immunity emerges and spreads around the world.
How is flu prevented?
Vaccination is the best way to prevent the flu. Other prevention practices include:
- Washing your hands often, especially after being in contact with someone who has a respiratory infection or with children who get viruses easily. You can also clean your hands with alcohol-based sanitizer.
- Avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth.
- Covering your cough and sneezing into your sleeve, or using tissues. After using tissues, be sure to throw them away.
- Avoiding close contact with people who are sick.
- Staying home if you are sick and keeping children home if they are sick.
- Wiping surfaces such as bathroom and kitchen sinks, faucets and counters with a mixture of 1 part household bleach to 9 parts water.
- Taking good care of yourself physically and emotionally.
If you get sick, how is flu treated?
Antiviral medications such as Tamiflu® and Relenza® may reduce the severity of the flu. If you have flu symptoms call your health care provider and ask about getting a prescription. Over-the-counter medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen (Tylenol) will help reduce fever.
Who is most at risk for complications from the flu?
The flu can lead to pneumonia and other life-threatening illnesses in people with chronic medical conditions such as heart or lung disease, kidney disease or diabetes. Others at higher risk include those with weakened immune systems, the elderly, the very young and pregnant women.
What’s the difference between the flu and a cold?
The flu and the common cold are both respiratory illnesses, but they are caused by different viruses. Unlike flu, the common cold comes on gradually, rarely causes fever and is usually limited to a sore throat, coughing, sneezing and a stuffy, runny nose. In general, the flu is worse. Symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and dry cough are more common and intense and come on more suddenly. Colds generally do not result in serious health problems such as pneumonia, bacterial infections or hospitalizations.
Learn more about flu at TexasFlu.org
SOURCE: Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS)