Ask A Doc: The Flu – How can I protect myself?

young woman blowing her nose with kleenex. high-key.

by Marita J. Michelin, MD

We have begun to see a drastic increase in the number of influenza cases in our community. Influenza is highly contagious and passed most often through coughs and sneezing. The flu, as it is commonly called, can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours!  This year, the New England Journal of Medicine reports that vaccines may only be 10% effective against certain influenza strains, leading to a significant increase in flu related illness and deaths. Unfortunately, influenza is a virus, and antibiotics will not cure the flu.  While this news sounds ominous, there are plenty of ways that you can fight the flu!  Number one is to do your best to avoid becoming infected.

Following a few simple precautions can help you and your family stay healthy.

• Wash your hands often. Keep an alcohol-based hand sanitizer to use when soap and water are not available 

• Avoid touching your face in public settings

• Stay hydrated

• Get enough sleep

• Stay home if you don’t feel well

• Even though the vaccine is partially covering the circulating strains, it is still helpful to get a shot as we expect the flu season to last for another 3 months or more.

If you do become ill, drink plenty of fluids, take Tylenol and/or ibuprofen and remain home until you are feeling better. Expect to be ill for three to seven days with headaches, cough, sore throat, muscle aches fevers and general malaise. Please contain your cough if you have to go in public, by sneezing or coughing into your bent elbow to reduce the virus load on your hands. Luckily, most of us will do fine at home with the above measures.

In response to the surge of flu cases across our area, Rochester Regional Health, including Newark Wayne Community Hospital, has implemented preventive measures to protect our patients and visitors from influenza. This includes adopting a stricter visitor policy to reduce exposure to our patients and visitors. During the flu season, our visitor policy will adhere to the following:

• Only two visitors per patient at a time

  Parents/caregivers are not counted as visitors

• All visitors must be at least 14 years old

• Exception: Healthy siblings of any age may visit newborns

• Patients should not receive visitors who are experiencing:

• Sore throat, fever, running nose, coughing, sneezing, or other flu-like symptoms (even if the visitor has been vaccinated against the flu)

Please stay healthy.  In the event you become ill and need us for worsening symptoms (for example chest pain, shortness of breath, difficulty urinating), please call your physician for further direction. As always, we are here to help you 24 hours a day, every day.

Marita J. Michelin, MD is Chief,  Emergency Medicine at Newark Wayne Community Hospital