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Take precautions to reduce risk during cold, flu season

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- With flu season in full swing, there are steps that can be taken to protect you and your family. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that normally influenza activity is at its peak during the months of January and February, but there is currently widespread flu activity throughout most of the United States, including Oklahoma.

Infection: The flu is caused by a virus that affects the nose, throat, bronchial airways and lungs. The flu is spread by droplets released by an infected person when sneezing, coughing or talking. These droplets can thrive on surfaces and can infect you when you touch the contaminated object and your face. Flu symptoms can be mild to serious, with a small amount causing fatality. Symptoms you need to be aware of are a fever of 100°F to 103°F, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headaches and exhaustion.

Protection: The most effective way to protect your family is by getting immunized with this season's vaccine. Additionally, remember to regularly wash your hands with soap and water, or use hand sanitizer. Avoid touching your mouth, eyes and nose, and keep distance (about 1 meter) from people who are feeling symptomatic. Finally, take care of your body by exercising, eating well and getting six to eight hours of sleep per night.
Recovery: Even by taking the necessary precautions, you may end up with a fever, cough or sore throat. Most flu cases are mild and one can recover without medical care. If you start to feel symptomatic, make sure that you stay home to rest and protect other people from getting sick. Furthermore, it is important to drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and to cover your mouth with your arm or a tissue when you cough and sneeze. These tips, along with taking a pain medication to ease body aches, will aid in recovery for most cases.

Those in high risk groups who are symptomatic should contact their primary care provider. These include children under 5 years old, pregnant women and persons over 50 years old.

Medical Care: If you begin to experience difficulty breathing or shortness of breath, or if you have a fever that lasts more than 72 hours, make sure you seek medical care. Children should be seen for medical care if their breathing becomes fast or labored, or if the fever continues.

Vaccinations in general: As mentioned, the best way to protect your family is by getting vaccinated for the flu and other contagious diseases, such as pertussis. Pertussis (also known as Whooping Cough) is on the rise compared to previous years and all children/adults in contact with children should contact their medical provider for guidance on obtaining vaccinations. It is very important that your child be current on all CDC required immunizations prior to attending day care or school.

Special Update: The occurrence of  Enterovirus 68 (EV-68) across Midwest and Central plains states has been identified nationally. Taking precautions to prevent the virus is the best method to keep your family and yourself healthy. The EV-68 presents with flu-like (fever, body ache, head ache, fatigue, chills/night sweats, nausea, etc.) and upper-respiratory illness symptoms (runny/stuffy nose, sinus congestion/pain, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath) that could especially be hazardous for patients with pre-existing Asthma, respiratory disease and immunodeficiency.  Please seek the medical attention of your primary care provider if you or your children are having symptoms.
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