Your Flu FAQ, featuring Ruth Chesnut, RN
We're deep into the trenches of flu season, and we thought we would have Ruth Chesnut, registered nurse at CMH and coordinator of Infection Control, answer a few basic flu questions and offer some advice for prevention and treatment.
- How many reported cases have there been in the area so far this season? There have been 11 documented cases of the flu (influenza A) here at CMH since December 26. Flu season typically goes through March 31.
- What are the causes of flu? The flu is caused by influenza virus type A and B.
- How is it spread? The flu is spread by droplets made when people cough, sneeze, or talk. It can be spread by people up to 6 feet away from reach other, as well as by touching a surface or an object that has the virus on it (like a table or doorknob ) and then touching your nose or mouth.
- What are the symptoms of flu? The flu usually comes on suddenly. Symptoms may include fever (however, you may not always have a fever with the flu), cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle aches or body aches, headache, and fatigue. Sometimes vomiting and diarrhea may occur, although this is more common in children. It’s really important to note that most healthy adults are able to infect others 1 day before symptoms develop and 5-7 days after becoming sick. That means that you could have the flu, not know it, and still spread it to other people, making flu prevention practices (hand washing, vaccination, etc.) so important even for seemingly healthy people.
- Who is at greatest risk of being infected? Small children, the elderly, pregnant women, those with certain medical conditions that weaken the immune system, those with lung disease, and those with heart disease are at highest risk of contracting the flu.
- Is there a special precaution people should take when it comes to children and the elderly? Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands! Hand washing is absolutely essential and non-negotiable this time of year. You should also get a flu shot early in the season to help protect yourself and those around you. If you do contract the flu, stay home! It’s important that you stay home until you no longer have symptoms, so that you don’t continue the spread of flu to others at work or school. And once you are asymptomatic, it’s important to remember that you may still be contagious, and should practice handwashing and avoid close contact with those at higher risk of contracting flu. If you must be around those susceptible to the flu during or after your own sickness, cover your cough and wear a mask over your face and nose—and make sure to limit your exposure to the shortest time possible.
- What's the best course of action for those who may have it or know someone who has the flu? If you have the flu, the Center for Disease Control recommends you stay home until 24 hours after your fever is gone, unless necessary for medical care. Always cover your cough and wash your hands. If you must be outside while still contagious, wear a mask. Be sure you get adequate rest and plenty of fluids. If you have other chronic health conditions such as heart disease, asthma or kidney disease that increase your risk with the flu, talk to your primary care provider as soon as possible.
In an emergency, call 9-1-1. Health resources and insight are not intended to diagnose conditions, provide second opinions, or make specific treatment recommendations. Please see a qualified healthcare professional if you have concerns about your own health. To search for providers in our area, check out our Provider Directory.