How to Protect Yourself and Your Loved OnesAgainst Seasonal Flu, Avian Flu (Bird Flu) or Any Cough Illness
What is the flu?
Influenza, known as flu, is a very contagious disease of the respiratory(breathing) system. The flu is caused by a virus that is easily passed from one person to another by coughing and sneezing. For most people, the flu makes them feel very sick, but they generally get better in about a week. However, young children, people older than 65 years of age, pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions can have serious complications from the flu. These complications can include pneumonia, dehydration, and worsening of medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes, or asthma.
The following tips can help protect you and your loved ones during the regular flu season, as well as from the threat of bird flu and any cough illness.
1. Get a flu shot every year.
The flu vaccine that you get every year does not protect you against birdflu. But flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself every flu season.Getting flu vaccine also means that you will not pass the flu to others.
2. Ask your health care provider if you should get pneumococcal vaccine.
You need pneumococcal vaccine (pneumonia shot) if you are 65 years or older,or if you have a medical condition like diabetes, asthma or heart disease.
3. Wash your hands.
4. Wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer .
5. Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze.
6. Cough or sneeze into a tissue or the inside of your elbow. Throw tissues away and wash your hands.
7. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth.
This decreases the chance that you will get the flu virus or other germs into your body, or that you will pass the flu to others.
8. Clean things that are touched often. -Clean things that are touched often at home, work or school, such as door or refrigerator handles, computer key boards/mouse, phones and water faucets.
9. Avoid close contact with others who are sick. -Avoid unnecessary holding, hugging or kissing anyone who has a cold or the flu.
10. People with young children, immune system problems or a chronic illness should avoid large crowds, unless necessary.
11. Stay home when you are sick. -
12. If you have flu symptoms, stay home from work or school and avoid public activities for at least 5 days (7 days for children), so that you don't pass the flu to other people.
13. When visiting countries that have bird flu, avoid bird markets, bird farms and close contact with birds.
14. For more information about travel to countries that have bird flu, visit the CDC travel website at: www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/index.htm.
What is Bird Flu (or Avian Flu)?
Bird flu, or Avian Flu, is a disease in wild and domesticated birds caused by avian influenza viruses. Bird flu viruses do not usually infect humans, but they can under the right conditions. Since 1997 there have been several hundred cases of human infection from bird flu viruses outside of the U.S. Most of these resulted from close contact with infected birds. Although almost all the recent cases of bird flu have been passed directly from sick birds to individuals who had close contact with the birds, rarely bird flu can be passed from a sick person to someone who is taking care of them or to family members living in close quarters.
How is Pandemic Flu different from Seasonal Flu?
Pandemic flu is different from bird flu and is different from the seasonal flu outbreaks that happen every year.
Seasonal flu is caused by influenza viruses that are already circulating among people. Seasonal flu often changes a little bit from year to year, but many people still have some degree of immunity to it. Because it is caused by anew virus, pandemic flu is likely to be more severe, affect more people, and cause more deaths than seasonal flu.
A worldwide pandemic could occur if a bird flu virus was to mutate or change so that it could easily be passed from person to person. A pandemic is that occurs in many places around the world at the same time. Experts around the world are watching for changes in bird flu viruses that could lead to a flu pandemic.
History of Flu Pandemics
During the last century, there were three flu pandemics, one in 1918, one in 1957, and one in 1968. The 1918 pandemic was especially severe. It resulted in 50 million deaths worldwide. Many experts now believe that we are overdue for another global pandemic of influenza and so efforts are underway to be better prepared.
Treatment of Pandemic Flu
No vaccine is currently available for pandemic flu and it is unlikely that there will be any vaccine until several months after the pandemic strikes.Anti-viral medications are in short supply and will be reserved for those who are sick with the flu and are not available for prevention of flu. Flu prevention depends upon good public health and personal hygiene practices,described earlier. Treatment of pandemic flu is similar to that of seasonal flu and is described above. In addition, during a flu pandemic, public health authorities may suggest the use of social distancing practices such as avoiding public meetings, theaters, or sporting events. In the event of a pandemic, watch the local cable access Channel and the Board of Health website for additional information.
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health recommends that you do not keep supplies of antiviral medications, such as Tamiflu ®, at home. For more information about influenza visit, www.cdc.gov/flu or www.mass.gov/dph/flu, or call the MDPH Immunization Program at 617-983-6800 or 888-658-2850