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Influenza

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that flu activity is decreasing in the United States, but remains slightly elevated. While flu activity has peaked nationally for this season, some parts of the country are still experiencing widespread flu.

Influenza-like illness in New York City and the majority of states, including Texas, is described by the CDC as being "minimal."

Influenza activity is expected to continue for a number of weeks. Also, flu viruses continue to circulate at low levels during the summer. Individuals who have not gotten a flu shot this season are still encouraged to get one. Laboratory data so far show that most flu viruses causing illness are still like the viruses that were included in the 2015-2016 flu vaccines. If you got a flu shot in fall 2015, you do not need to get another one until the fall of 2016.

Be aware that sometimes a person can get the flu even if they were vaccinated, so please be familiar with flu symptoms, groups that might be at higher risk of serious illness, and what to do if you think you might have the flu.

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Flu Shots on Campus
Preventing the Flu
Flu Symptoms / Groups at Higher Risk / What to Do if You Think You Have the Flu
Medical Treatment of the Flu
Self-care and Over-the-Counter Medications for the Flu

Preventing the Flu

Cold and flu viruses spread mainly when someone who has a cold or the flu coughs or sneezes, potentially propelling virus-laden respiratory droplets several feet through the air. You can become infected by inhaling these droplets or by touching a surface that has been contaminated by these droplets (like a desk, doorknob or keyboard) and then touching your mouth, nose or eyes.

How to Avoid Getting Colds and Flu
  • Get a flu shot every fall.
  • Keep your hands clean. Carry alcohol-based hand sanitizer, and use it often. See The proper way to wash your hands below.
  • Cough or sneeze into your elbow or sleeve. When you use a tissue, throw it in the trash immediately.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
  • Don't eat, drink, or smoke after others.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick, especially if they have fever, cough, and a sore throat.
  • Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, manage stress, drink plenty of fluids, and eat nutritious foods.

Print and post a Healthyhorns Stop Germs flyer (PDF)

www.cdc.gov/flu

The Proper Way to Wash your Hands

  • If you have to touch a dispenser to get a paper towel, get it BEFORE you wash your hands, or operate the dispenser with your elbow.
  • Use soap and warm water.
  • Wash the front and back of your hands, your thumbs, between your fingers, and around your fingernails for 15-20 seconds -- the equivalent of singing two verses of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat."
  • Rinse and dry your hands thoroughly. Push the "start" button of all dryers with your elbow.
  • If possible, use a paper towel to turn off the water and open the door. Toss it in the nearest waste basket.

View a Video on Proper Handwashing Techniques from the CDC

Flu Symptoms / What to do if you think you have the flu.

If you're a UT student and have flu symptoms, call the UHS 24-hour Nurse Advice Line at (512) 475-6877. This service is available every day of the year. Advice Line nurses can help you determine whether you should see a healthcare provider or, when appropriate, provide self-care advice.

The symptoms of of influenza generally include:

  • Fever greater than 100° F
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Headache
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Nausea, diarrhea, and vomiting

Illnesses with a lot of nasal congestion and mild fever are probably not the flu. People may have only one or two symptoms besides a fever, or they may have many.

Most people who have the flu recover without needing medical treatment. But serious complications like pneumonia can occur and may be more likely in certain people such as those who:

  • are age 65 or older;
  • have a chronic pulmonary (including asthma), cardiovascular (except high blood pressure alone), kidney, liver, blood (including sickle cell disease) or metabolic (including diabetes) disorder and/or a neurological disorder (including disorders of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerve, and muscles such as cerebral palsy, seizure disorders, stroke)
  • have a suppressed immune system, including that caused by medications or HIV infection;
  • are pregnant or within 2 weeks after delivery;
  • are age 19 or younger and are on long-term aspirin therapy; and/or
  • are morbidly obese (body-mass index of 40 or greater)
Is it a Cold or the flu?

If You Have Flu Symptoms

  • Stay home or in your room and limit contact with others, except to get medical care if needed.
  • Get lots of rest.
  • Drink plenty of non-caffeinated fluids (such as water, juice, tea, sports drinks) to prevent dehydration.
  • Avoid alcohol.
  • Eat well balanced, nutritious foods.
    • Ask a friend to bring you food to limit your contact with others.
    • If you live in a residence hall, ask your RA how you can have meals delivered to your room.
  • Monitor your temperature. Stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone without having to use fever-reducing medications.
  • Ease your symptoms with over-the-counter medications and the home remedies, on the chart below.

Medical Treatment of the Flu

Antibiotics aren't effective against the flu. The flu is caused by viruses, and antibiotics don't kill viruses. However, if a secondary bacterial infection develops because of the flu (e.g. pneumonia, bronchitis, a serious sinus infection, etc.), a healthcare provider may prescribe antibiotics for the bacterial infection.

Some prescription anti-viral drugs can help reduce the severity and duration of the flu if started within 48 hours of the onset of flu symptoms.

To get help determining whether your flu symptoms need medical attention or if you can care for them at home, call the UHS 24-hour Nurse Advice Line at (512) 475-6877.



Why
Rest Your body needs energy to fight off infection, so getting enough rest may help speed your recovery time.
Avoid close contact When someone with a cold or the flu coughs or sneezes, viruses can travel up to six feet through the air.
Drink lots of fluids Drinking plenty of non-caffeinated beverages (water, juice, teas, and sports drinks) prevents dehydration and loosen mucus, which can ease congestion and make coughing productive.
Humidifiers or shower steam Warm, moist air can relieve congestion and make it easier to breathe.
Tissues Instead of a handkerchief, use disposable tissues. Don't lay used tissues on surfaces like a desk or nightstand. Toss them directly into a wastebasket to avoid spreading the virus.
Chicken soup Chicken soup contains a mucus-thinning amino acid called cysteine. Some research shows that chicken soup may help control congestion-causing cells called neutrophils.
Hot tea Hot liquids help thin mucous and loosen congestion. Some hot liquids can soothe a sore throat.
Saline nasal spray/wash Use a saline nasal spray or wash to help break down sinus congestion and remove virus particles and bacterial from your nasal passages. You can buy them in any drugstore or make your own saline wash to use with a neti pot.
Warm salt water gargle Gargling with warm salt water can moisten a sore or scratchy throat and temporarily relieve pain. Dissolve a teaspoon of salt in a glass of warm water four times daily. (Don't swallow the salt water, but spit it out.)
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) for fever , sore throat, body aches* To reduce pain and discomfort so you can rest.
Decongestant* For sinus congestion that keeps you from getting enough rest when the above suggestions do not help.
Cough drops, expectorant* If coughing keeps you from getting enough rest.


*CAUTION - Many cold and cough medicines contain acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Check the active ingredients and take no more than one medicine containing acetaminophen at a time. Ask a pharmacist to help you find the right medication.