2014-2015 Flu Season
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that as of late December 2014, all national key flu indicators are elevated and about half of the country is experiencing high flu activity. Flu activity is expected to continue into the coming weeks. There are early indications that this flu season may be severe, especially for people aged 65 and older and young children.
Vaccination is Key
CDC continues to recommend that unvaccinated people get vaccinated. While some of the viruses spreading this season are different from those in the vaccine, vaccination can still provide protection and might reduce severe outcomes such as hospitalization and death. CDC also is reminding clinicians and the public that people with high risk factors who get flu symptoms should be evaluated for possible treatment with antiviral drugs.
Cleaning and Disinfecting Recommendations for Schools
The flu virus can live and potentially infect a person for two to eight hours after being deposited on a surface. Flu viruses are relatively fragile, so standard cleaning and disinfecting practices are sufficient to remove or kill them. Please be sure to frequently clean and disinfect commonly used surfaces, such as desks, doorknobs, pencil sharpeners and computer keyboards, as well as toys and hands-on learning items. For more information, please download the following guide from CDC:
Symptoms of Influenza
Flu symptoms include the sudden onset of the following:
- Loss of Appetite
- Muscle aches, fatigue
- Sore throat
- Runny nose
For a comparison of flu versus cold symptoms, download Cold Versus the Flu.
CDC General Prevention Guidelines
In addition to the flu vaccination, there are other important precautions you can take to help prevent the spread of the disease:
- Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.
- If you get the flu, stay home. If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. You will help prevent others from catching your illness.
- Cover your mouth and nose. Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick.
- Clean your hands. Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
- 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.
- Practice other good health habits. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
TEST YOUR FLU KNOWLEDGE! TAKE THE QUIZ AT THE END OF THIS ARTICLE.
Encourage Workers to Get Vaccinated
Encourage workers to get the seasonal flu vaccine when it is available. Consider hosting a flu vaccination clinic in your school or parish. For additional information about seasonal flu vaccine priorities, see Key Facts About Seasonal Flu Vaccine.
Promote Hand Hygiene and Cough Etiquette
Post signs that tell workers, visitors, and clients the steps for proper hand hygiene and cough etiquette. Workers, visitors, and clients should have easy access to supplies such as:
- "No touch" wastebaskets for used tissues
- soap and water
- alcohol-based hand rubs
- disposable towels
- cleaning and sanitation materials
Lobbies, halls and restrooms should have the above items and workers should know where these items are located.
Keep the Workplace Clean
- Frequently clean all commonly touched work surfaces, work areas, and equipment (e.g., telephones, doorknobs, lunch areas, countertops, copiers, etc.).
- Use the cleaning agents that are usually used in these areas and follow the directions on the label. No additional disinfection beyond routine cleaning is recommended by CDC.
- Provide disinfectants and disposable towels for workers to use to clean their work spaces and surfaces and to keep work areas clean.
Educate Workers About the Flu and Conditions That Place Them at Higher Risk for Flu Complications
Train workers about how flu can be transmitted in the workplace and what precautions they can use to prevent transmission. Provide information about the following:
- signs, symptoms, and complications of the flu
- policies and procedures for reporting flu symptoms, using sick leave, and returning to work
- any required work practices
CDC has identified groups that have a higher risk for complications from seasonal flu (e.g., pregnant women, persons with asthma, etc.). Inform workers that some people are at higher risk of complications from flu and suggest that they talk to their doctor about their own risk and what to do if they become ill.
For the most current and accurate flu-related information, visit the CDC’s website.
For information specific to NJ, please visit NJ's Flu Planning website.
For information on taking care of a sick person at home: http://www.cdc.gov/flu/homecare/index.htm