As you may have seen in the news recently, the flu activity has increased in the United States, with widespread activity reported in 49 states. According to the Weekly Influenza Surveillance Report Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Week 5 (January 28, 2018- February 3, 2018), Kentucky had 660 cases of lab confirmed Influenza with 20 deaths in those aged 18 years and older. That makes this the worst flu season in many years.

Ireland Army Health Clinic wants to ensure the health and safety of all our beneficiaries during this flu season. We want to remind you that there are several ways to protect yourself and your family and as seen with the severity of this year's outbreak, all preventive steps are important ones.

The Centers for disease Control and Prevention recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting against flu viruses. While flu vaccination is the most important way to prevent influenza, antiviral drugs are the most important way to treat influenza infection. So if you have flu symptoms such fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue (tiredness), seek medical attention immediately.

So how do you know if you have a cold or a flu? Colds are usually milder than the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose and colds generally do not result in serious health problems, but get yourself checked out if your symptoms get worse.

The CDC also recommends that you take every day preventative action available to help prevent the spread of germs. Those include:

(1) Avoid close contact with sick people; (2) if you are sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them. If you are sick with flu-like illness, the CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone; (3) cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue in a trash can. If you don't have a tissue use the crook of your elbow to cough or sneeze into--NOT your hand; (4) wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub/sanitizer; (5) avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth because germs spread this way; (6) and finally clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

The health organization also says to take flu antiviral drugs if your doctor prescribes them because prompt treatment with a flu antiviral drug can mean the difference between having a milder illness and a stay in the hospital. This is another reason to see your doctor if you start feeling worse--the sooner you catch it, the sooner you can successfully treat it.

Lastly, if you have not gotten a flu vaccine yet this season, get vaccinated now -- it's not too late! Please report to the IRAHC Immunization Clinic located on the 7th Floor during walk-in hours for your flu shot. Immunization hours are Monday - Friday: 7:30 to 11:45 a.m. and 1 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.

If you are not a beneficiary of IRAHC please visit your nearest pharmacy and participate in its flu shot program or contact your physician.

For further information on the flu and preventive measures, please visit www.cdc.gov/flu.