How to avoid the flu in a bad flu year

Globally, it’s been a bad year of the flu so far, with cases in many regions higher than they’ve been in decades. To try and stop the spread, school systems in many cities have been shutting down, especially in the hardest-hit areas within North America, Asia and Europe.

According to Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the most common flu viruses going around are two A group viruses, H3N2 (also known as “Australian Flu,” despite not originating from Australia) and H1N1 (known as “Swine Flu”), and some B viruses.

“When H3N2 dominates, it generally is a bad actor from the beginning and usually foreshadows a bad year,” Fauci told CNN. “Superimpose upon that the fact that it is likely that the vaccine is not going to be particularly effective this year.”

Experts are calling the widespread outbreaks an epidemic, but are stopping short of calling a pandemic — when a disease is prevalent all over a huge region or even the entire world. An epidemic occurs when the number of cases of a disease is higher than usual.

Keep safe from the flu

In the U.S. alone, 14,676 people have been hospitalized for flu-related illnesses since October — the highest ever recorded, and double the number from last year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To prevent the spread of disease, here’s what you need to do:

  • Wash your hands Ideally, you should spend about 20 seconds each time you wash. Sing “Happy Birthday” or your favorite nursery rhyme, if it helps you measure the time.
  • Don’t just sanitize yourself — keep your surroundings clean too. Sanitize especially commonly-handled places, like doorknobs and light switches. It’s also important to hit any food prep or storage areas.
  • Use a tissue to cover your mouth and nose if you cough or sneeze. This is better than using your hand or your sleeve — you can toss the tissue out immediately, rather than wear those germs on your body for the rest of the day.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially things like sharing food and drinks. If you’re a sick person’s caretaker, wash your hands frequently.
  • Don’t touch your eyes, nose or mouth, if you can avoid it.
  • Above all, if you get sick, stay home and get some much-deserved rest. Going to work or school can spread the infection to many people, so it’s best to hit the couch and catch up on TV until you feel better.

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