Widespread flu activity is being reported across much of the country and the American Red Cross urges people who have not yet gotten a flu vaccine to get vaccinated now.
The Red Cross also has steps people can take to prevent the spread of the flu virus during what the Centers for Disease Control says is the worst influenza outbreak in several years in the United States.
Widespread flu activity is reported in 41 states, Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
Health officials in central Iowa are asking people with minor illnesses to avoid hospital emergency rooms because of an influx of flu-related cases. Officials at several hospitals in the Des Moines area said Thursday that local emergency rooms are experiencing heavy volumes of patients and wait times due to flu cases. They recommend that people with non-life-threatening illnesses visit their primary health care provider, a local urgent care or walk-in clinic.
To prevent the flu, the CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older as the first and most important step in protecting someone against flu viruses.
In addition to getting vaccinated, the Red Cross has some simple steps people can take to help prevent the spread of the flu virus. Parents can also practice these things with their kids to help keep them well:
-Cover the nose and mouth with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue away after use. If a tissue isn’t available, cough or sneeze into the elbow, not the hands.
-Wash hands often, especially after coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand-rub.
-Avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth.
-Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
-Stay home if sick.