Prevent­ing spread of flu is ev­ery­one’s job

Santa Fe New Mexican - - THE WEATHER -

New Mex­ico is one of 11 states re­port­ing wide­spread flu ac­tiv­ity, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion. Worse, it is one of three states re­ported to have been hard­est hit by the flu — and the peak sea­son gen­er­ally runs into Fe­bru­ary.

Santa Fe is suf­fer­ing more than most. North­east­ern New Mex­ico, in­clud­ing Santa Fe and Taos coun­ties, has dou­ble the statewide rate and nearly three­fold the na­tional av­er­age of flu cases, The New Mex­i­can’s Re­becca Moss re­ported last week.

Ear­lier is bet­ter for a flu vac­ci­na­tion, but there is still time for peo­ple to re­ceive their shots. The vac­cine nor­mally is avail­able at doc­tor’s of­fices, ur­gent care med­i­cal cen­ters and even phar­ma­cies. Of­ten, there’s not even a co­pay for a shot, de­pend­ing on what type of in­sur­ance a per­son car­ries.

De­spite the vac­cine’s avail­abil­ity, more than half the pop­u­la­tion in New Mex­ico still hasn’t re­ceived an im­mu­niza­tion. We must do a bet­ter job of re­mind­ing res­i­dents why flu shots can pro­tect us all. Bet­ter ed­u­ca­tion will pro­tect more peo­ple.

Here’s what peo­ple need to re­al­ize: Even for peo­ple who dis­like vac­ci­na­tions, re­ceiv­ing a shot can pre­vent the spread of flu to oth­ers with weaker im­mune sys­tems.

The life you save could be the el­derly woman stand­ing next to you at the gro­cery store, the preg­nant woman at the gym or the child with asthma. All these groups are at risk for com­pli­ca­tions should they con­tract flu.

But shots are not the only way to pre­vent ill­ness in the win­ter. Even small chil­dren are taught to cough into their el­bows rather than their hands. By do­ing so, they don’t cover their hands with deadly germs.

How­ever, when you cough, still do your best to cover your mouth com­pletely. If you do have to use hands to stop a cough or sneeze from spread­ing, try not touch to any­thing. Ap­ply san­i­tizer im­me­di­ately or go wash your hands (and try to avoid touch­ing sur­faces along the way to the bath­room.) Wipe down sur­faces, in­clud­ing your key­board, desk, phone, walls and doorknobs.

If you feel sick — symp­toms of flu in­clude fever, aches and cough­ing — stay home. See­ing a doc­tor im­me­di­ately after symp­toms start can help re­duce the sever­ity of ill­ness.

Even if you are not cough­ing, sneez­ing or oth­er­wise feel­ing ill, think about pre­ven­tion. Again, one of the best meth­ods of prevent­ing the spread of germs is old-fash­ioned: Soap and hot wa­ter. Wash hands fre­quently. Lather hands with soap, rub­bing them to­gether for at least 20 sec­onds. (The CDC rec­om­mends hum­ming “Happy Birth­day” twice to make sure you’ve washed long enough.) Rinse hands and then dry them. Re­peat, many times dur­ing the day.

Get your flu shot. Pre­vent the spread of germs. Get enough rest. All of this will help pre­vent the spread of ill­ness. After all, we are in this to­gether.

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