It's that time of year again. Flu season. According to the American Red Cross, influenza has touched the entire country, but is considered widespread throughout 35 states, including Ohio and Pennsylvania.
West Virginia is listed as being regionalized with the outbreak.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that, according to this week's FluView report, overall flu activity continues to be high in the United States with 20 states reporting high levels of influenza-like illness.
H1N1 viruses also continue to be predominate across the country, the CDC reports.
The most important step, according to the CDC and the American Red Cross, is to receive a flu vaccine.
We agree. If you haven't received one, to date, get it scheduled. It's the first line of defense.
It's advised anyone age 6 months and older should become vaccinated - all flu vaccines are designed to protect against H1N1 viruses.
In addition to the vaccine, the Red Cross also offers the following tips to help prevent the spread of the flu:
* stay home from work or school if you are sick.
* avoid close contact with those who are ill.
* cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing, and throw the tissue away after use. If that's not possible, cough or sneeze into the elbow, not the hands.
(People with the flu can spread it to others about six feet away through coughs and sneezes.)
* wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-rub.
* and avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
It's also advised to disinfect surfaces used commonly, such as door knobs, switches, phones, computers and remote controls.
The common signs of influenza, says the Red Cross, are high fever, severe body aches, headache, being extremely tired, sore throat, cough, runny or stuffy nose, and vomiting and/or diarrhea (more common in children).
Consult with your health-care provider should you believe you have the flu. Seek medical care immediately any of the following symptoms develop:
* fast breathing, trouble breathing or bluish skin color.
* pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen (adults).
* confusion or sudden dizziness.
* no desire to drink enough fluids, not being able to eat, or severe or persistent vomiting.
* flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.
* children - not waking up, being so irritable that the child does not want to be held or not interacting. Fever with a rash. No tears when crying or significantly fewer wet diapers than normal.
Again, we urge everyone to take the steps needed to prevent catching and spreading the flu virus.
For more information about influenza, visit www.redcross.org.