Getting a flu shot and washing your hands often can help you avoid the flu. (grovepharmacy.com)
Getting a flu shot and washing your hands often can help you avoid the flu. (grovepharmacy.com)

Also known as influenza, the flu causes symptoms that include coughing, fever, sore throat, headache, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, chills, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. According to Bloomberg.com, the infection kills between 3,000 and 49,000 people in the United States and about 500,000 around the world every year. There are three strains of the influenza virus, called Influenza A, B and C.

This year’s flu season has been reported to be the worst that the country has seen in almost a decade, with over 5,000 Americans hospitalized due to the infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), this is a “rate of 18.8 influenza-associated hospitalizations per 100,000 people in the United States.”

As of Jan. 16, there have been reports that some areas of the country have appeared to peak, while there is still some uncertainty about others. According to the website Decoded Science, it is still too early to tell whether the flu season has entirely reached its peak.

According to an email sent to King’s students from Rita Cross, director of King’s College’s Health Center, you can prevent the spread of the flu by washing your hands frequently, covering your nose and mouth with tissues when you cough or sneeze, using tissues only one time and disposing of them immediately after use, staying at least six feet away from those who are sick and carrying disposable wipes to disinfect frequently touched surfaces such as keyboards and doorknobs.

“It is definitely not too late to get a flu shot. The flu virus is always circulating in the population,” Cross said. “The flu is a large threat as long as the cold weather drives people indoors where they can easily infect each other. The need for the flu shot should decease around April.”

Cross also stated in her emails that, in order to treat yourself if you have the flu, you should drink plenty of water, eat clear soups, get plenty of rest, gargle with warm salt water or use throat sprays or lozenges, avoid smoke and stay at home for at least 24 hours after your fever breaks.

The CDC states that, even if you have already had the flu you should still get a flu shot, because the illness that you have already gotten may not have been caused by an influenza virus. Also, if what you had was a strain of the flu, the shot will protect you from other strains that you have not been exposed to.

According to flu.gov, you should seek emergency medical attention if you begin to feel any of the following symptoms: “difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, purple or blue discoloration of the lips, pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen, sudden dizziness, confusion, severe or persistent vomiting, seizures, flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough.”

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