Early start to flu season: prevention steps can help dental office

Jan. 22, 2013
People need to be more vigilant earlier this flu season

Flu season is starting early this year, with an increase in flu activity almost a month early.1 It is the earliest start reported to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention since 2003-2004. Influenza often peaks in January to February, but 29 states are now reporting high levels of influenza-like illness.

Each year, one flu virus of each kind is used to produce seasonal influenza vaccine.2 During 2011-2012, 132.8 million doses of flu vaccine were distributed in the United States, according to the CDC.3 The CDC recommends a yearly flu vaccine for everyone six months of age and older to protect against this potentially serious disease.

Flu vaccines are designed to protect against three influenza viruses that experts predict will be the most common during the upcoming season. The three kinds of influenza viruses that commonly circulate among people today are Viruses A, B, and C. Type A and B cause the annual influenza epidemics that have up to 20% of the population sniffling, aching, coughing, and running high fevers. Type C also causes flu, however, its symptoms are much less severe.

Types of flu
Not all types of flu are the same. Some cause mild symptoms, while others can make people very sick. Influenza is a contagious respiratory infection caused by a number of flu viruses, which enter your body through mucus membranes through your nose, mouth, and eyes. Every time you touch your face you could be infecting yourself.

Type A viruses are capable of infecting people as well as animals, although it is more common for people to suffer the ailments associated with this type of flu. Wild birds act as the hosts for this flu virus. Type A virus is constantly changing and is generally responsible for the large flu epidemics.

Type B virus is found only in humans. Type B flu may cause a less severe reaction than type A, but occasionally type B flu can still be very harmful, but it is not classified by subtype and does not cause pandemics. Type C viruses are also found in humans. Type C is milder than either A or B. People generally do not become seriously ill from the influenza type C virus and it does not cause epidemics.

Common colds and flu have similar symptoms, but cold symptoms are less severe. Flu symptoms may include cough or sore throat, runny nose, head or body aches, chills and fatigue, fever of 100 degrees or higher, and nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

Here are a few helpful tips to keep your home sanitized during the flu season to help prevent the spread of germs.

* If you are sick with flu-like symptoms, stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without the use of fever-reducing medicine.

* Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing. Use your sleeves or bury your nose into your elbow. Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and throw the tissue in the trash immediately. VioNex Antiseptic Skin Wipe Towelettes can also be used for easy hand cleaning when soap and water are not available.

* Tell everyone in your home and office to wash their hands several times per day, especially after using the bathroom and before eating.4 Liquid soap needed to wash hands should be about the size of a quarter, and warm water works better than cold. VioNex Antimicrobial Liquid Soap is gentle and nonirritating liquid soap that helps reduce the bacteria that can cause disease.

* Door handles, phones, and particularly keyboards are some of the biggest culprits in transferring germs. An intermediate disinfectant such as CaviWipes1 by Kerr TotalCare is perfect for cleaning, disinfecting, and decontaminating clinical and environmental surfaces.

* Don’t share mugs, cups, pens, lip balm, and other item. Give children sanitizing solutions to keep in their backpack at school. VioNex No Rinse Gel Antiseptic hand wash provides a convenient and economical way to kill germs on your hands when soap and water are not available.

During the past 30 years, the flu has been linked to anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 deaths per year and 200,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States.5 The seasonal flu vaccine was created to try to avert these epidemics.

Other articles by or about Shannon Pace Brinker:
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1. Washington Post National Health & Science, published by Lena H. Sun, Dec. 29, 2012
2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) 2012-2013 Influenza Season Week 51 ending Dec. 22, 2012
3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC and MMWR. Recommendations and Reports. Dec. 19, 2003/52(RR17); 62-64.
Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5217a2.htm. Accessed May 21, 2012. Palenik CJ. Environmental surface asepsis. 2005 Sept. 24(9):122,124.
4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC and MMWR. Recommendations and Reports. Guideline for Hand Hygiene in Health-
Care Settings. Oct. 25, 2002/51(RR16); 1-44. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5116a1.htm.
5. http://www.cdc.gov/flu/protect/keyfacts.htm