In the United States, flu viruses are most common during the fall and winter months. Influenza activity often begins to increase in October and November. Most of the time flu activity peaks between December and March and can last as late as May. Every flu season is different, and influenza infection can affect people differently. Even healthy people can get very sick from the flu and spread it to others. While there are many different flu viruses, a flu vaccine protects against the strains of virus that research suggests will predominate during a given season.
Flu viruses are thought to spread mainly from person to person through the coughing, sneezing or talking of someone with the flu. Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with flu virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes or nose. Individuals with the flu may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 – 7 days after becoming sick.
Whether you elect to receive a flu vaccine or not, there are everyday preventive actions you can take to stop the spread of germs:
- Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
- Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
- If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
- While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
Following these simple precautions can greatly lower your risk of contracting the flu. Just remember that, as Benjamin Franklin surmised, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.