Cold and flu season is inevitable. It happens every year. Making it through this dreadful season without catching either is a different story.
Minnesota is in the middle of one of the most severe flu outbreaks in several years, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. More than 1,100 people have been hospitalized with flu-like symptoms statewide this season. Twenty-three of the 27 flu deaths in the state and 62 percent of the hospitalizations have been in people 65 and older, the department said in a recent weekly update. Some hospitals have even restricted visitation to protect patients and staff.
Minnesota is not alone in the fight against the flu. Most states have classified the flu as widespread. It is, and we have to be mindful about how to avoid it. Staying well requires action. Note ways to avoid the flu this season. The Centers for Disease Control suggests three ways to fight the flu. The first is to take the time and get a flu vaccine. That is recommended as it protects against the three viruses that research suggests will be the most common. Everyone 6 months of age or older should get the flu vaccine. People at high risk include those living with chronic health conditions such as asthma, diabetes, and heart or lung disease.
The second step to take against the flu is taking everyday preventive actions to stop the spread. This can be done by avoiding contact with sick people, staying home for at least 24 hours if you are sick with flu-like symptoms and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. One of the biggest preventive measures is washing your hands often with soap and water. Washing our hands often seems like a simple reminder but can be inconvenient, in which case having hand sanitizer close by is the next-best thing.
The third action the CDC suggests is taking flu antiviral drugs if they are prescribed. The prescription medication can make the illness milder and shorten the time you are sick.
While the flu season we’re in seems bad, health experts say this is what influenza looks like. When it strikes, it strikes hard. Data from the Minnesota Department of Health shows Minnesota recorded 67 flu-related deaths and more than 1,800 hospitalizations during the 2009-2010 season, 70 deaths and more than 970 hospitalizations in the 2010-2011 season, and 33 deaths and more than 550 hospitalizations in the 2011-2012 season.
More information about how to fight the flu this season can be found at www.cdc.gov/flu. Stay well.