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Flu Information and How to Avoid It

January 13, 2013

This winter is making for a bad flu season in the United States. We've seen some of the highest rates of influenza in the past decade, and in January the proportion of deaths related to pneumonia and influenza reached slightly above the epidemic threshold, according the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. Below are some of the flu statistics and how to avoid catching the virus this year.

One way the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention measures the flu season is by compiling the number of flu test administered by physicians and determining the number of those which come back positive. 2012-2013 is already a historically a bad year, with only the 2009-2010 year that brought the H1N1 bird flu pandemic worse in the past 13 years. Between October to December 31st, there have been 97,249 flu tests with over 20k positive tests, which is 2 times the average number of tests. After the H1N1 year, then next closest year was 2010-2011, which was in the 60,000 range.

The flu season typically lasts from October to April and usually peaks in February. Each year up to 20% of the US catches the flu. Though the death rate varies each year, more than 23,000 people die from influenza and pneumonia-related illness each year in the US. In 2007 influenza was the eighth leading cause of death in the US. Of those that die from the influenza related illness, 90% are above the ago 65. Worldwide there are 250 to 300 thousand deaths from the flu.

Who is most susceptible? People with diabetes, cancer, asthma. People who have had a stroke and those who have heart disease. Pregnant women and those who are above the age of 65 are susceptible. Children who are 5 years old or young and especially children 2 or under. People with decreased immune systems like those who have AIDS or HIV.

There are some ways to give yourself the best chance to avoid catching the flu are eating a properly healthy diet. Washing your hands, especially after meeting people. Exercising regularly can boost your immune system. Stay at least 10 feet away from people how are sick. Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Get at least 7 hours of sleep per night and sneeze into your elbow/sleeve to avoid transmission. Places to avoid which have been proven to carry the virus are elevator buttons, escalators, pens at work, door handles, machines at the gym, and airplane/train seats.

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