Annual Flu and Illness Considerations

Each year we seem to deal with a varied strain of Influenza (Flu) in the United States.  Some years there can be heightened concern like we realized with the 2012 Bird Flu, or more recently with the 2020 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).  Regardless of the name, strain or year, the impacts can be significant. 

When we speak about the reoccurring yearly “run of the mill flu” for example, the statistics can be significant.  According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for the years 2019 – 2020 the preliminary figures show that 32 million people will become ill with the flu.  A further 310,000 people will be hospitalized with nearly 18,000 deaths associated with the flu illness.  Remember, these numbers relate to the yearly “common” flu that we have become so familiar with combatting.  

As the world becomes more advanced, it also becomes smaller.  Currently worldwide populations easily intermingle, therefore we can expect to see tougher and tougher flu strains that may be harder and harder to fight.  The good news is that with some very basic steps we can work to mitigate our exposure and vulnerability to both the “yearly flu” and the more pronounced pandemic strains.  

Everyone should be reminded that there are some very simple precautions that can be taken to help us mitigate our risk of exposure to flu.  Several of these steps we learned as children.

Healthy Habits to Help Prevent Flu

Avoid close contact

Avoid close contact with people who are sick. When you are sick, keep your distance from others to protect them from getting sick too.

Stay home when you are sick

If possible, stay home from work, school, and errands when you are sick. This will help prevent spreading your illness to others.

Cover your mouth and nose

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when coughing or sneezing. It may prevent those around you from getting sick. Flu and other serious respiratory illnesses, like respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), whooping cough, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), are spread by cough, sneezing, or unclean hands. Throw your tissues out!

Clean your hands

Washing your hands often will help protect you from germs. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.

  • Handwashing: Clean Hands Save Lives
    Tips on hand washing and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers
  • It’s a SNAP Toolkit: Handwashing
    Hand washing resources from the It’s A SNAP program, aimed at preventing school absenteeism by promoting clean hands. From the School Network for Absenteeism Prevention, a collaborative project of the CDC, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the American Cleaning Institute.

Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth

Germs are often spread when a person touches something that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth. It is said that a person touches their face at least 15 times per hour on average (

Practice other good health habits

Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces at home, work or school, especially when someone is ill. Get plenty of sleep, be physically active, manage your stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious food.