Nothing to sneeze at

Take steps quickly to ward off a dangerous strain of flu
Jan. 15, 2013 @ 12:33 AM

Tennessee is one of many states with a full-blown outbreak of flu. This is shaping up to be the worst flu season in a decade or more.

How bad is it? The latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention flu advisory report, which covers Dec. 23-29, says 41 states have widespread flu. We are one of those states. There have so far been more than 3,000 hospitalizations associated with laboratory-confirmed flu virus, the CDC report said. Among children, there have been dozens of deaths reported.

In Massachusetts, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino declared a public health emergency because of the flu. Pennsylvania has had 22 flu-related deaths so far, according to the state’s Department of Health. Most occurred among people older than 65.

If you haven’t gotten a flu shot,you should. There is still time for it to be effective. It takes two or three weeks to reach full potency, so if you get one now it could still help you ward off the flu. The shot’s effects last for six months or so, and the peak time for flu usually comes in February. The shot is not a guarantee you won’t get the flu — it’s about 60 percent effective — but it may be our best weapon.

There are other ways you can fight off the virus. The very young and the elderly are most vulnerable. To improve your chances of escaping the illness, you should follow some simple rules of behavior and actions.

Although you probably won’t get the flu from pressing an elevator button or using a computer keyboard that a sick person has used, you could catch a cold. So it’s smart to clean shared telephones and laptops with a disinfecting wipe.

Also, wash your hands. Soap up or use an alcohol-based sanitizer, especially before you eat or touch your eyes, nose, or face, and after you’ve been in the bathroom.

If you’ve got a sick child or spouse at home, wash your hands more than usual and avoid kissing and sharing drinks or utensils with family members; viruses can live for five days after symptoms are gone.

What you eat can make a difference in how well your body fights off germs. Cut back on fatty foods and eat more fruit and vegetables that boost your immune system, experts advised CNN.

Meditation can help ward off colds and flu, CNN reports. In a new study from the University of Wisconsin, people who took an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation were about 30 percent less likely to get sick. No need to take a class; simply sit still and focus on your inhales and exhales for several minutes every day.

And if you get sick with the flu, don’t come to work or get out among people. Your virus can spread to healthy people and make even more folks sick in stores, at school and in the workplace. You may hate to miss work, but your co-workers will appreciate it.

In the meantime let’s hope this flu bug fades soon.