By Lt. Col. Orlando Ruiz Sosa, Chief of Preventive Medicine, U.S. Army Health Clinic VicenzaMarch 5, 2019
Seasonal influenza is not over yet. The Influenza A viruses are predominating this season throughout Europe. Characterization of influenza viruses has shown that the majority of A viruses are similar to the vaccine, and vaccine effectiveness studies have indicated moderate to good effective protection against circulating viruses.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that receiving the flu vaccine can reduce your risk of contracting the virus by 40 to 60 percent, and even in cases where you might still catch the flu, your body will be better equipped to fight it.
If you haven't been vaccinated, don't worry, it's not too late! The influenza vaccine is still available at most military treatment facilities.
WHAT CAN I EXPECT IF I DO GET THE VIRUS?
According to the Army Public Health Department, symptoms include a fever (typically greater than 100 degrees Fahrenheit), headache, extreme tiredness, dry cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.
WHAT DO I DO?
People who are in high risk health categories -- such as pregnant women, young children and those with immune deficiencies -- should seek medical treatment for the flu. If you or your child are experiencing chest pain, shortness of breath, wheezing, fever with a rash, unable to consume water, sudden dizziness or confusion you should go to the nearest emergency department.
Those not in high risk categories should stay home for 24 hours after your fever has gone or when all your symptoms have resolved. If you must leave the house, please wear a surgical or face mask to protect yourself and others around you. Keep away from others as much as possible to help prevent the spread of the virus. Drink clear fluids such as water, broth and sports drinks to stay hydrated. Get plenty of rest and follow excellent hand, respiratory and cough hygiene. Do not share eating or drinking utensils.
SHOULD I TAKE MEDICINE?
Fortunately, most healthy people with mild flu illness do not need care or antiviral drugs. If you take over the counter medications for pain relief, fever or cough, pay attention to what you are taking. For example, Tylenol (acetaminophen) is in several cold medications; mixing medications or taking too much can be life threatening. Do not give aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) or products that contain aspirin (such as antacids like Pepto Bismol) to children or teenagers 18 years old or younger. Children under four years of age should not be given over the counter cold medications without speaking to a health care provider first.
SHOULD I DISINFECT MY WHOLE HOUSE?
Throw away tissues or other disposable items used by the sick person into the trash. Wash your hands after touching tissues or other contaminated waste. Keep bedside tables, bathroom surfaces and toys clean by wiping them down with household disinfectant. You do not need to clean linens and utensils separately but it's important that they aren't shared prior to being washed thoroughly. Wash linens with laundry soup and tumble on a hot setting. Wash your hands well after handling dirty laundry.
DOES THE SICK PERSON NEED TO BE QUARANTINED?
If you leave your home or barracks for health care or food procurement, wear a surgical or face mask. Minimize close face to face contact (less than about six feet) with the sick person. Try to arrange for a family member, friend or neighbor to obtain food and other items for you. When holding small children, place their chin on your shoulder to prevent them from coughing in your face. Designate one person as the ill person's caregiver if possible. Try to identify a person as the primary caretaker who is not at high risk of flu associated complications.
HOW CAN I PREVENT MYSELF FROM GETTING THE FLU?
If you haven't already, get the flu shot! You should also wash your hands frequently with soap or hand sanitizer, stay away from sick individuals and do not touch your eyes, mouth or nose. These are the best ways to prevent the flu from affecting you.