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Taking precautions might help prevent flu

According to a recent report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, flu activity is increasing in most of the United States with nearly half of all states reporting widespread influenza activity. So far, most flu is 2009 H1N1 flu, sometimes called swine flu.

Proper hand washing is key to preventing the spread of flu at school and at home. Cooperative Extension and the National Sanitation Foundation teach a six-step hand washing process:

1. Wet hands with warm water.

2. Apply soap.

3. Rub hands together and between your fingers for 20 seconds.

4. Pay special attention to finger nails.

5. Rinse the germs away.

6. Dry hands on a paper towel.

Scrubbing should take as long as it takes to sing Happy Birthday twice. If soap and water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub. The rub should contain at least 60 percent alcohol.

Germs enter the body through the eyes, nose and mouth. So when you touch these parts of the body you might introduce germs into the body.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Toss the tissue in the trash, and wash your hands. Stay at home if you are sick. Avoid contact with people for at least 24 hours after your fever has broken, without the help of fever-reducing medicine.

Symptoms of H1N1 are similar to those of the seasonal flu: fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, head ache, chills and fatigue.

Symptoms in children that need immediate care are: trouble breathing; bluish or gray skin color; not drinking enough fluids; persistent vomiting; not waking up or interacting with others; irritability and not wanting to be held; flu-like symptoms that improve then reappear with fever and worse cough.

Adults should seek immediate medical help if they have difficulty breathing, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting or flu symptoms that improve and then worsen. Flu symptoms can last a week or longer.

While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. Follow public health advice regarding school closures, avoiding crowds and other measures to keep our distance from each other to lessen the spread of flu.

Anti-viral drugs are available for treatment of the flu, but people still need to take precautions. It is better to prevent the flu than cure it.

Web posted on Thursday, September 24, 2009

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