Flu season is here. Health professionals, like all of us, are hopeful that this year will not be as severe as in the past. Last year 3,053 Albertans were hospitalized with confirmed cases of influenza and nearly one hundred died.
Influenza – commonly referred to as the flu – is a respiratory disease caused by a virus that affects the nose, throat and lungs. It is easily passed from person to person through the air and is more common in Canada during the winter months.
Most people who get the flu get better, but the virus lowers the body’s ability to fight other infections. This is what leads to complications and bacterial infections, such as pneumonia, and even death. The people with the highest risk of complications with the flu are the elderly, children (6 months to 5 years old), pregnant women, indigenous people, and people with chronic medical conditions.
Luckily, there are some simple ways to keep you and your family healthy this year:
Get a flu shot. The single best way to prevent the seasonal flu is to get vaccinated each year. The flu shot has been free to Albertans since 2009, and nearly 30% of all Albertans get their flu shot every year.
Vampire cough. The flu virus is transferred via the air, so if you have to sneeze or cough, make sure that you cover yourself. The safest way to do this, is to cough or sneeze into your elbow, which will look like you are holding a vampire’s cape in front of your face.
Wash your hands. Washing your hands often can help stop the spread of germs and prevent respiratory illnesses like the flu.
Avoid close contact. Avoid close contact with people who are sick, and if you are sick, stay home.
Practice good housekeeping. During the flu season, make sure you clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school.
Healthy habits. In order to keep your immune system strong, get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.
These small tips can help keep you happy and healthy all winter long.