Cold and Flu Prevention

In the U.S. in a typical year, approximately 5 to 20 percent of the population gets the flu, resulting in approximately 200,000 hospitalizations according to CDC.

What Is It?

Influenza (the flu) is an extremely contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza A or B viruses. It spreads from person to person, can cause mild to severe illness and in some cases can lead to death. Flu appears most frequently in winter and early spring.

Symptoms and Treatment

Symptoms of the flu and the common cold are a lot alike, but they are more severe with the flu. The flu can also result in other serious health problems such as pneumonia and bacterial infections and can require hospitalization. Symptoms such as fever, body aches, extreme tiredness and dry cough are more common and intense with the flu. Doctors are able to administer a flu test within the first few days of illness  to determine whether someone has the flu. Antiviral drugs are sometimes prescribed by doctorsfor patients with the flu.

How Do Flu Viruses Spread?

A simple cough or sneeze can spread the flu from person to person in the air. It can also spread when a person touches something with the flu virus on it, like a door handle or a desk, and then touches his or her mouth or nose. Studies have shown that influenza viruses can survive on surfaces up to 8 hours. A person can be infected with the flu and not realize it for a few days. In fact, someone can be contagious even before symptoms are evident.

How Can I Help Prevent the Spread of the Flu Virus?

  • Encourage vaccinations. Vaccination is the best protection against contracting the flu.
  • Practice proper hand hygiene. Wash hands carefully and frequently with soap and water. Use hand and skin cleansers.
  • Ensure frequent cleaning and disinfecting of commonly touched surfaces. Use disinfectant with an influenza claim.
  • Cough or sneeze into elbows. Avoid coughing or sneezing into hands, which are more likely to spread bacteria and the flu virus through touch.
  • Moisturize and keep the air clean to prevent transmission, and to relieve cold and flu symptoms
  • Stay home. Encourage those who are sick to stay home and limit contact with others.