Experts offer advice on avoiding flu

CNJ staff photo: Benna Sayyed Camellia Gallegos, a nationally certified medical technician at Clovis Family Healthcare, draws up a flu vaccine.

Benna Sayyed

Winter is right around the corner, temperatures are dropping and the flu season is here.

Essie Means, director of Barbara Ann’s Child Care Center, is at ground zero for the battle against the highly contagious respiratory infection.

She said her facility sees more children age 3 and under catch a cold during flu season. She said germs are transferred quicker in this age group because kids tend to be less aware of sanitary practices such as covering their mouth when coughing and sneezing.

“If parents know their child has a fever or cold or flu symptoms, get them treated immediately before bringing them to the center. Upper respiratory infections spread like wildfire,” said Means.

She stressed washing sippy cups and sanitizing toys to lessen the chances of kids getting sick.

On average annually in the U.S.:

• 5 percent to 20 percent of the population gets the flu

• more than 200,000 people are hospitalized from flu complications

• about 23,600 people die from flu-related causes, according to

“The cold and flu virus affects everybody, everywhere. We (Clovis) might not have the same strain of cold and flu virus that other places do, but it’s everywhere,” said Erica Fury, family nurse practitioner at Clovis Family Healthcare.

Fury said children and seniors are the two groups most affected by the flu season — the young population because it has not been exposed to many conditions, the older population because it is usually not as healthy and could have diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer, which weaken a person’s immune system and puts the person at high risk.

According to Fury, a common cold typically lasts from five to 10 days. She stressed getting a flu shot, not using the same utensils and dishes as others during meals, washing hands after sneezing and avoiding people who are sick. Also, people who are sick or think that they’re getting sick should stay home or away from crowded areas.

“Anytime you go out shopping or go to an event in the community where there’s going to be lots of people, you run more of a risk of being exposed to the virus,” Fury said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers these preventative tips for avoiding the flu.

• Everyone six months and older should get a flu vaccine every flu season — this provides protection throughout the season.

• Keep hands clean — wash hands with soap and clean running water for 20 seconds or use alcohol-based hand rubs if necessary.

• Develop, maintain and keep good sleep habits.

• Be prepared for cold weather.

• If necessary, see your doctor or nurse to find out if your illness is bacterial or viral.

• Be smoke-free.