The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

December 5, 2012

Don’t get sick

— In an Associated Press report this week, health officials warned that flu season is off to its earliest start in nearly a decade and predicted that it’s shaping up to be a really bad one.

These particular strands of flu are making the infected sicker than normal.

Higher than normal reports of flu have come in already from southern states such as Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas.

Officials also say that the last time a flu season started this early, in 2003-04, it proved to be one of the most lethal — claiming more than 48,000 lives.

On average, 24,000 Americans die each flu season.

It makes sense to do all we can to prevent it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the best way to prevent seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year, but adds “good health habits like covering your cough and washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu. There also are flu antiviral drugs that can be used to treat and prevent the flu.”

Here are some tips on preventing the flu, and good health habits to practice to help stop germs from the CDC:

1. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick, too.

2. If possible, stay home from work, school and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.

3. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.

4. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

5. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose or mouth.

6. Practice other good health habits. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious food.

Symptoms can include fever, cough, runny nose, head aches, body aches and fatigue. Some people also suffer vomiting and diarrhea while some develop pneumonia and other severe complications.

If in doubt, get checked out by a health care professional.

Have a safe and healthy winter season — flu-free.