In the Triangle, we’re experiencing what’s being referred to as a “late-peaking flu season”. Typically, the flu season experiences peak activity between December and February. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), flu activity can last as late as May!
Recently, we’ve seen a slight increase in the flu, with most of the patients being adults. This increase matches state, regional, and national trends. While the flu shot may protect you against the flu, it’s not always 100% effective. Barring the flu, there are also other types of colds and stomach bugs going around that could present flu-like symptoms, such as norovirus.
Common Flu Symptoms
If you or someone you know has the flu, they may experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Sore throat
- Muscle/Body aches
- Fever and/or chills
- Runny, or stuffy nose
- Vomiting/diarrhea *(more common in children)
Fast Flu Facts
The flu is a respiratory illness.
Also known as influenza, the flu is a type of contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses that infect the nose, throat, and lungs. Unlike the flu, norovirus is transmitted via the fecal-oral route.
Example: Someone with norovirus gets their fecal matter or vomit on their hands and then you either touch their hands, or you touch something that they touched when they had the germs on their hands, and you get those germs from your hands into your mouth.
It’s spread through droplets that land on people or surfaces.
The flu is most commonly spread through droplets when people with the flu sneeze, cough, or talk. The droplets from the infected person travels through the air and can land in the mouths or noses of others who are nearby. You can also catch the flu by touching a surface that has the flu virus on it and then touching your face.
You can infect others even if you’re not symptomatic yet.
According to the CDC, you can actually pass the flu onto others even if you’re not showing any signs or symptoms. Most healthy adults can infect others anywhere from 1 day before symptoms start, up to 7 days after becoming sick.
The flu can range from mild to serious.
While most people bounce back from the flu after a little while, it can be extremely serious for young children and those with weakened immune systems. In some cases, it may even result in death.
The best way to protect yourself is by getting vaccinated.
In recent years, getting a flu vaccine is not only suggested – in some cases, it is mandatory at workplaces. Check with your doctor to find out more about when you should get vaccinated and the type(s) of flu vaccines that are available.
Tips for Staying Healthy at Work & at Home
Jessica Dixon, Infection Prevention Project Specialist at WakeMed, offers the following advice for staying healthy before, during, and after flu season:
#1 – Keep your hands and fingers away from your face!
The flu (and other germs that cause illness) are spread rapidly when you touch an infected surface and then touch your eyes, mouth, or nose. Be vigilant about what you’re touching, and keep your hands away from your eyes, nose, and mouth.
#2 – Wash your hands, & remember the FROG method.
Whenever you wash your hands, remember that Friction Rubs Out Germs (FROG). Water, soap, friction, and time are the key ingredients to making sure your hands are cleaned the right way. You should scrub (not wash) your hands for 15-20 seconds to ensure that you’re washing the germs down the drain. Alcohol gel is great when hands are not visibly soiled and you’re not dealing with toileting yourself or others or dealing with GI bugs. Alcohol gel will NOT kill norovirus!
#3 – Keep the environment clean.
Cleaning products like Clorox wipes and Lysol wipes are great for routine cleaning, even when someone is sick with a respiratory illness. But if someone in your house is vomiting or has diarrhea, you should use a bleach-based product to clean hard surfaces (the wipes mentioned above do NOT contain bleach, even if they are Clorox brand!).
You can purchase shelf-stable bleach-containing solutions (like Clorox Cleanup) – just look for “bleach” or “sodium hypochlorite” on the label.
When cleaning, target high-touch objects like toilet handles, sink handles, light switches, door knobs, remote controls… and don’t forget cell phones! After someone has been sick with a GI bug, wash all linens they’ve used, preferably using bleach and hot water if it’s appropriate for the fabric. Don’t share linens, cups, or utensils with other people. In addition, take care of yourself! Get plenty of sleep, eat a healthy diet, and exercise regularly.
About Jessica Dixon
Jessica Dixon is an Infection Prevention Project Specialist for WakeMed Health & Hospitals. A former Criticial Care nurse, Jessica manages all Infection Prevention data, including internal reporting and public reporting of hospital-associated infection data. She is in charge of several special projects, including WakeMed’s Hand Hygiene Program and Catheter-Associated Urinary Tract Infection (CAUTI) Reduction Program.